Transport is by far the largest source of final energy demand in Ireland. In 2017 it accounted for 43% of final energy demand and grew by 2.0%.

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 21% between 2012 and 2017.

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,Fuel Tourism,Unspecified
2005,1892.590566,1111.91,0,858.61,157.42,44.88,49.73,387.27,579.84
2006,2007.473962,1075.7,0,989.51,159.99,44.69,80.66,407.17,670.65
2007,2086.432874,1144.82,0,1044.91,167.79,47.45,63.69,520.75,638.78
2008,2111.823073,1056.15,403.75,971.78,200.84,50.29,66.02,253.21,330.23
2009,2058.583792,784.18,373.22,767.79,181.12,43.9,64.34,211.85,378.36
2010,2014.480922,687.66,347.46,788.01,163.74,43.66,64.53,228.46,259.24
2011,2048.565902,631.6,339.21,700.25,152.61,44.07,56.02,229.84,220.21
2012,2057.589139,629.31,309.99,586.4,147.79,42.33,59.2,227.84,111.83
2013,2103.910124,580.57,322.28,675.96,143.33,41.9,57.91,210.05,211.9
2014,2158.120581,621.12,328.43,748.79,137.96,38.5,72.49,294.04,122.57
2015,2156.48119,625.95,328.3,847.24,136.67,39.34,71.5,472.77,104.03
2016,2122.734691,734.8,321.67,869.17,137.79,40.31,85.92,383.79,251.19
2017,2087.921871,746.28,337.22,1021.92,136.62,41.51,75.87,162.37,437.51
Source: SEAI

Private cars

Private cars are the transport mode with the largest energy use. They accounted for 41% of transport final energy demand in 2017.

Aviation and HGV

Aviation was the next largest at 20%, followed by Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) freight at 15%. Energy use for HGV freight and aviation have been the most sensitive to the economy.

Buses, coaches and rail

Public and private bus or coach transport accounted for less than 3% of transport energy use in 2017. 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
2005,28.375,22.434,5.941
2006,29.903,23.014,6.889
2007,31.285,23.379,7.906
2008,31.724,22.841,8.883
2009,31.116,21.393,9.723
2010,30.74,19.763,10.977
2011,31.656,18.742,12.914
2012,32.129,17.636,14.493
2013,33.212,16.959,16.253
2014,34.44,16.169,18.27
2015,34.878,15.104,19.774
2016,34.984,13.594,21.389
2017,35.132,12.192,22.94
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 2017 was 11% higher than at the celtic tiger peak in 2008 and a massive 52% 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 47% between 2008 and 2017. In turn, the number vehicle-kilometres by diesel cars increased by 158%.

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
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. It reached 112.0 g CO2/km in 2017. This was due to car taxation changes, and EU obligations for manufacturers to reduce fleet emissions.

New test procedures

A standardised laboratory test procedure determines the carbon emissions ratings of new cars. From September 2018 a new test procedure known as the WLTP is used for all new cars.

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. 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,Gasoline,Jet Kerosene,Liquid Biofuels,Other
2005,2378.34,1821.94,857.04,1.1,23.81
2006,2590.15,1849.4,987.88,2.66,5.74
2007,2758.54,1885.66,1043.33,21.54,5.55
2008,2615.02,1797.82,970.13,55.57,5.55
2009,2378.24,1636.32,766.92,77.42,4.44
2010,2235.56,1477.59,787.06,92.59,4.43
2011,2221.33,1399.39,699.41,97.79,4.47
2012,2224.43,1272.45,585.67,84.87,4.91
2013,2368.11,1197.48,675.06,102.24,4.96
2014,2518.71,1133.62,748.03,116.18,5.57
2015,2727.05,1074.55,846.49,128.13,6.27
2016,2951.32,1002.83,868.35,118.48,6.75
2017,2955,904.3,1021.16,160.64,5.83
Source: SEAI

Petrol and diesel

The amount of petrol consumed in Ireland reduced by more than half between 2007 and 2017 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 7% higher in 2017 than 2007.

Renewables and electricity

Renewable transport fuels have grown from a low base to over 3% of transport final energy use in 2017. This is almost all from biofuels blended with petrol and diesel. Electricity  remained at less than 0.1% of transport final energy demand in 2017. Most of this was from Luas and DART, but electric vehicles are growing strongly.

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
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. Delivery of goods to wholesalers and retail outlets was the largest source of freight energy demand in 2017. The next largest was the transport of goods for import or export. Despite recent growth freight activity in 2017 was still 37% 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 2017 was still 61% 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. Import and export freight, and carriage of agri-products were also still well below the 2007 peak in 2017, by 47% and 44% respectively.

Transport energy in Ireland

See the downloads below for more information on transport energy.