Today, more than 92% of the energy used in the transport sector comes from oil products. This share has been steady over the last decade, and in the short term, the situation is not expected to change drastically. More than 60% of refined oil products are used in the transport sector.
International Energy Agency (IEA) modelling scenarios estimate that with current and planned energy policies, the transport sector will use oil for more than 80% of its energy needs in 2050. Even in the more ambitious 2 degrees Celsius scenario, still half of the energy needed for transport will come from oil with most of the growth expected to come from non-OECD countries (1). The IEA oil demand forecasts reflect the high dependency on vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines well into the future, making up more than 90% of the vehicles on the road even in 2030.
The IEA oil demand forecasts reflect the high dependency on vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines well into the future, making up more than 90% of the vehicles on the road even in 2030
For these reasons, improving the fuel economy of existing vehicles is critical to transport security and managing energy supply and greenhouse gas emissions. IEA analysis indicates that by 2020, conventional light duty vehicle average fuel economy could be improved by more than 60%, and by more than 50% for heavy road vehicles such as trucks and buses. This could save more than 28 million barrels of oil per day in 2050, or 80% of today’s OPEC oil production.
To achieve this, fuel-efficient vehicle technology deployment (in the powertrain, vehicle body, and auxiliaries) must accelerate. Implementing advanced technologies to improve fuel economy is cost-effective over the lifetime of the vehicle, as fuel savings largely compensate for the extra costs spent on purchasing a fuel-efficient vehicle. Driver performance and road surfaces are also important in improving fuel efficiency. But while recent progress in new vehicle fuel economy is positive, it will not be sufficient to reach the internationally agreed objective of limiting the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius.
Fuel-efficient vehicle technologies are cost-effective, but government policies are crucial to overcoming several market barriers that prevent stronger market penetration of efficient vehicles. A policy package of fuel economy labelling, standards and fiscal incentives is needed to ensure both the supply and demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.
Today, the IEA has identified only a handful of countries that have the right set and ambition level of policies in place to make the most of the available vehicle technology potential
Today, the IEA has identified only a handful of countries that have the right set and ambition level of policies in place to make the most of the available vehicle technology potential. Two recent IEA reports – the Technology Roadmap: Fuel Economy of Road Vehicles and Policy Pathway: Improving the Fuel Economy of Road Vehicles – are designed to assist governments and OEMs to implement bold fuel economy initiatives worldwide.
Fuel economy labelling and fiscal incentives can ensure that fuel efficiency is at the core of the customer vehicle purchase decision-making process. At the same time, ambitious fuel economy standards provide certainty to OEMs about future fuel economy requirements, facilitating longer-term planning of the deployment of technologies that prioritise improved fuel economy (rather than vehicle weight or performance for example) in vehicle development.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
François Cuenot is an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency; Lisa Ryan is the senior energy economist in the Energy Efficiency Unit of the International Energy Agency.
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(1) The IEA’s Energy Technology Perpectives 2012 2-Degree Scenario (2DS) describes how energy technologies across all energy sectors could be transformed by 2050 to achieve the global goal of reducing annual CO2 emission levels to half those of 2005