The role of renewable fuels in reducing the climate impact of road transport

Experts from the IEA Bioenergy and Advanced Motor Fuels Technology Collaboration Programmes have analysed the role of renewable fuels to reduce the climate impact of road transport in a number of countries, including Germany, Sweden, Finland, the USA and Brazil. The analysis considered developments up to 2050, based on national policies, projections of the vehicle fleet, and on the availability of renewable transport fuels.  The work was supported by DG Energy of the European Commission.

Current policies are far from sufficient to reach net carbon neutrality in the road transport sector by 2050. More ambitious policies will be needed and achieving this target cannot be achieved by one measure alone. Countries that deploy a combination of different measures such as reducing transport demand, improving vehicle efficiency, introducing electric vehicles and adding renewable energy carriers such as biofuels, e-fuels, renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen have the best chances to meet ambitious goals towards net carbon neutrality of the transport sector.

The assessment shows that biofuels contribute most to climate impact reduction now and up to 2030, 2040, or even 2050, depending on the country. The contribution of electric vehicles (which is also linked to the climate impact of electricity production) generally catches up with biofuels only by 2040. In Brazil, biofuels remain the largest contributor until 2050. In the mid- to longer term the contribution of biofuels will mainly be for heavy duty transport.

Substantial volumes of sustainable feedstock could be made available for biofuels production, sufficient to replace up to 30% of transport energy demand in the longer term if there are strong efforts to reduce transport demand and improve vehicle efficiency.

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