Transport is by far the largest source of final energy demand in Ireland. In 2016 it accounted for 43% of final energy demand and grew by 3.8%.

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 19% between 2012 and 2016.

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

Final energy by mode of transport

 UnspecifiedFuel TourismNavigationRailPublic PassengerAviationLGVHGVPrivate Car
200023171824428663008091562
200134965929469875708081642
2002 200 6933440 113 80309181697
2003 176 6103944130785010181746
2004 300 5745549430744010751817
20055803875045157859011121893
2006 671 4078145160990010762007
200763952164471681045011452086
2008330253665020197240410562112
2009 378 2126444 181 7683737842059
2010 259 22865441647883476882014
201122023056441537003396322049
2012 112 22859421485863106292058
201321421058421426763225812104
2014 125 29472381357493286212158
2015 108 47371391338473286262156
201625638486401338693227352123
Source: SEAI

Private cars

Private cars are the transport mode with the largest energy use. They accounted for 43% of transport final energy demand in 2016.

Aviation and HGV

Aviation was the next largest at 18%, 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 2016. Rail accounted for less than 1% .

Private car activity

Year Private Petrol Cars Private Diesel Cars
2000 1.88 0.43
2001 1.98 0.45
2002 2.05 0.48
2003 2.11 0.5
2004 2.17 0.54
2005 2.24 0.6
2006 2.3 0.69
2007 2.34 0.79
2008 2.29 0.89
2009 2.14 0.98
2010 1.98 1.1
2011 1.88 1.29
2012 1.77 1.45
2013 1.7 1.62
2014 1.62 1.83
2015 1.52 2
2016 1.35 2.17
Source: SEAI and National Car Test Service

Increase in kilometres driven

We use vehicle-kilometres (vkm) to measure private car use levels. This is the sum of all kilometres driven by all private cars. The total number of kilometres driven by private cars in 2016 was 12% higher than 2007 and over 50% higher than 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 42% between 2007 and 2016. In turn, the number vehicle-kilometres by diesel cars increased by 394%.

Carbon intensity of new cars

Year Private Petrol Cars Private Diesel Cars
2000 166.1 165.8
2001 167.7 167.5
2002167.9163.5
2003167165.3
2004167.6169.6
2005165.6168.4
2006161.1163.7
2007162.6167.5
2008158.8155.4
2009 148.5 139.8
2010 136 132.4
2011 128.1 128.2
2012 124.2 124.9
2013 120.5 121.1
2014 119.3 117.1
2015 116.8 114.4
2016 116.7 111.9
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 2016. It reached 112.4 g CO2/km in 2016. 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. This will move to a new test procedure from September 2018.

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

  Diesel Gasoline Jet Kerosene Liquid Biofuels Other
2000 1855 1590 629 0 29
2001 1956 1652 755 0 24
2002 1989 1688 802 0 21
2003 2059 1686 784 0 20
2004 2248 1731 743 0 23
2005 2378 1822 857 1 24
2006 2590 1849 988 3 6
2007 2759 1886 1043 22 6
2008 2615 1798 970 56 6
2009 2378 1636 767 77 4
2010 2236 1478 787 93 4
2011 2221 1399 699 98 4
2012 2224 1272 586 85 5
2013 2368 1197 675 102 5
2014 2519 1134 748 116 6
2015 2727 1075 846 128 6
2016 2951 1003 868 118 7
Source: SEAI

Petrol and diesel

The amount of petrol consumed in Ireland reduced by more than half between 2007 and 2016 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 2016 than 2007.

Renewables and electricity

Renewable transport fuels have grown from a low base to over 3% of transport final energy use in 2016. This is almost all from biofuels blended with petrol and diesel. Electricity (including Luas, DART and electric vehicles) remained at less than 0.1% of transport final energy demand in 2016.

Heavy Goods Vehicle activity

 Import & exportDeliver goods to wholesalers and retailDeliver materials to factoriesDeliver construction materialsCarriage of Agri-products Other
2000 2982 227170219889843421
2001 2742 252597821107813269
2002 3410 3004119226259833235
2003 3559 3504128631309553464
2004 4088 3683139035429743613
2005 4018 3925121341959123889
2006 3745 3396136441709643682
2007 4689 37161582422610283466
2008 4425 4011145733809913023
2009 3438 2591118016107732478
2010 2728 258398112248842524
2011 2708 26429109807841918
2012 2973 2272 875 995 735 2045
2013 2374 22618189788211885
2014 2350 2621 986 975 896 1945
2015 2335 2587 1129 965 912 1915
2016 2378 3187158814749591977
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 2016. The next largest was the transport of goods for import or export.

Impact of the construction sector

There was a rapid increase in tonne-kilometres between 2000 and 2007. A subsequent decline followed between 2007 and 2013. Delivery of construction materials contributed most to this pattern. Construction traffic only returned to growth in 2016. We expect to see a significant increase in energy use from this sector as house-building and major infrastructure projects ramp up between now and 2020.

Transport energy in Ireland

See the downloads below for more information on transport energy.