Transport is by far the largest source of final energy demand in Ireland. In 2018 it accounted for 42% of final energy demand and grew by 2.6%.

High energy demand from transport sector

Transport is the sector with the largest energy demand and is the most sensitive to the economy. It tends to grow or reduce sharply in response to economic growth or contraction. This is evident over the past three decades. Energy demand from transport increased by a massive 183% between 1990 and 2007. It then decreased by 27% between 2007 and 2012, and increased again by 25% between 2012 and 2018.

The graphs below show trends in energy for transport, broken down in different ways.

Final energy by mode of transport

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Transport by mode (ktoe),Private car,HGV,LGV,Aviation,Public Passenger,Rail,Navigation,Pipeline,Fuel Tourism,Unspecified
2005,1892,1112,0,859,157,45,50,2,387,580
2006,2006,1076,0,990,160,45,81,2,407,672
2007,2086,1145,0,1045,168,47,64,1,521,639
2008,2112,1056,404,972,203,50,66,1,253,328
2009,2058,784,373,768,181,44,64,1,212,379
2010,2014,688,347,788,164,44,65,2,228,260
2011,2048,632,339,700,153,44,56,4,230,220
2012,2057,629,310,586,149,42,59,4,228,112
2013,2104,581,322,676,142,42,58,3,210,213
2014,2157,621,328,749,136,38,72,3,294,126
2015,2157,626,327,847,134,39,71,4,473,107
2016,2115,735,320,869,135,40,86,21,384,264
2017,2084,746,339,1022,133,42,76,20,162,444
2018,2063,727,332,1103,139,42,84,23,184,506
Source: SEAI

Private cars

Private cars are the transport mode with the largest energy use. They accounted for 40% of transport final energy demand in 2018.

Aviation and HGV

Energy used for air travel increased by 7.9% in 2018, surpassing the previous peak set in 2007 for the first time. Aviation now accounts for 21% of energy used for transport, second only to private cars.

Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) freight was the next largest use of transport energy at 14%. Energy use for HGV freight and aviation have been the most sensitive to changes in the economy.

Buses, coaches and rail

Public and private bus or coach transport accounted for less than 3% of transport energy use in 2018. Rail accounted for less than 1% .

Private car activity

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Private Car Activity (billion km driven per annum),All Private Cars,Private Petrol Cars,Private Diesel Cars
2005,28.3,22.4,5.9
2006,29.9,23,6.9
2007,31.3,23.4,7.9
2008,31.7,22.8,8.9
2009,31.1,21.4,9.7
2010,30.8,19.8,11
2011,31.6,18.7,12.9
2012,32.1,17.6,14.5
2013,33.3,17,16.3
2014,34.5,16.2,18.3
2015,34.9,15.1,19.8
2016,34.8,13.6,21.2
2017,35.1,12.3,22.8
2018,35.1,11.1,24
Source: SEAI and National Car Test Service

Increase in kilometres driven

We use vehicle-kilometres (vkm) to measure the activity of private cars. This is the sum of all kilometres driven by all private cars. The total number of kilometres driven by private cars in 2018 did not increase from the previous year, however it was still 11% higher than at the celtic tiger peak in 2008 and a massive 51% higher than in the year 2000.

Petrol to diesel shift

In the past, private cars ran mostly on petrol while commercial vehicles used diesel. From the mid 2000s, the share of diesel private cars began to increase. Changes to annual car taxation in 2008 accelerated this trend. The kilometres driven for petrol cars decreased by 51% between 2008 and 2018. In turn, the number vehicle-kilometres by diesel cars increased by 170%.

Carbon intensity of new cars

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Carbon intensity of new cars (gCO2/km),All new cars
2005,166.11
2006,161.69
2007,163.97
2008,157.93
2009,143.47
2010,133.63
2011,128.12
2012,124.52
2013,120.71
2014,117.16
2015,114.34
2016,112.53
2017,111.97
2018,113.19
Source: SEAI and DTTAS

CO2 emissions for new cars

For the average new car purchased, CO2 emissions per kilometre fell by 32% between 2007 and 2017, reaching 112.0 g CO2/km in 2017. This was due to car taxation changes, and EU obligations for manufacturers to reduce fleet emissions. In 2018 the average CO2 emissions per kilometre increased again by 1%. This was the first increase since since 2007, and is partly due to the increasing share of SUVs.

New test procedures

A standardised laboratory test procedure determines the carbon emissions ratings of new cars. The on-road factor is the difference between test emissions and emissions in real world driving conditions. Evidence shows that the on-road factor has increased dramatically in recent years. Real world fuel consumption and carbon emissions are now much greater than test values.

From September 2018 a new test procedure known as the WLTP is used for all new cars.The new procedure aims to reduce the difference between test results and real world performance.

Final energy by fuel

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Transport energy by fuel (ktoe),Diesel,Petrol,Jet Kerosene,Liquid Biofuels,Electricity,Other
2005,2378,1822,857,1,5,19
2006,2590,1849,988,3,5,1
2007,2759,1886,1043,22,4,1
2008,2615,1798,970,56,5,1
2009,2378,1636,767,77,4,1
2010,2236,1478,787,93,4,1
2011,2221,1399,699,98,4,1
2012,2224,1272,586,85,4,1
2013,2368,1197,675,102,4,1
2014,2519,1134,748,116,3,2
2015,2727,1075,846,128,4,3
2016,2951,1003,868,118,4,3
2017,2955,904,1021,161,4,2
2018,3095,821,1102,154,5,2
Source: SEAI

Petrol and diesel

The amount of petrol consumed in Ireland reduced by more than half between 2007 and 2018 as a result of the shift to diesel cars. The increase in diesel use for private cars was offset by lower diesel use in freight. Diesel use was 12% higher in 2018 than 2007.

Renewables and electricity

Renewable transport fuels have grown from a low base to over 3% of transport final energy use in 2018. This is almost all from biofuels blended with petrol and diesel. Electricity  remained at just 0.1% of transport final energy demand in 2018. Most of this was from Luas and DART, but electric vehicles are growing strongly from a low base.

Heavy Goods Vehicle activity

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Heavy Goods Vehicle Activity (Million tonne km),Delivery of construction materials,Import & export,Delivery of goods to wholesalers & retail,Delivery of materials to factories,Carriage of Agri-products,Other
2005,4195,4018,3925,1213,912,3889
2006,4170,3745,3396,1364,964,3682
2007,4226,4689,3716,1582,1028,3466
2008,3380,4425,4011,1457,991,3023
2009,1610,3438,2591,1180,773,2478
2010,1224,2728,2583,981,884,2524
2011,980,2708,2642,910,784,1918
2012,995,2973,2272,875,735,2045
2013,978,2374,2261,818,821,1885
2014,975,2350,2621,986,896,1945
2015,965,2335,2587,1129,912,1915
2016,1474,2378,3187,1588,959,1977
2017,1653,2498,3419,1254,996,1940
2018,1905,2246,3545,1245,1053,1451
Source: CSO

Recent growth

Activity of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) is best measured by tonne-kilometres (tkm). Tonne-kilometres are the weight of the freight that is transported multiplied by the distance it is transported over. The CSO track HGV activity in their annual “Road Freight Survey”.

HGV activity has been increasing since 2013, although there was a slight reduction in 2018. Delivery of goods to wholesalers and retail outlets was the largest source of freight energy demand in 2018. The next largest was the transport of goods for import or export. Despite the growth since 2013, freight activity in 2018 was 39% below the peak in 2007. 

Impact of the construction sector

There was a rapid increase in overall HGV tonne-kilometres between 2000 and 2007. A sharp decline followed between 2007 and 2013. Delivery of construction materials contributed most to this pattern. Construction traffic only returned to growth in 2016 and  in 2018 was still 55% lower than the peak in 2007.  We expect to see an increase in energy use from this sector as house-building and major infrastructure projects ramp up between now and 2020, though it may never reach the level seen in 2007. Import and export freight was also still 52% less than the 2007 peak in 2018.

Transport energy in Ireland

See the downloads below for more information on transport energy.