Key transport trends in Q1 2021

March 30, 2021

T&E’s quarterly trends series gives a snapshot of the key developments that will define the future of transport.

More batteries, less metal (per battery)

As the EU’s electric vehicle market continues to grow, its demand for batteries will grow, too. Concerns over the sustainability of batteries have mostly focused on their use of raw materials. T&E’s report took a deep dive into the sustainability of batteries and found that through recycling and technological improvements, the amounts of raw materials needed are set to decrease significantly. This is particularly the case for cobalt.

E-mobility infrastructure charging ahead

The blistering growth in electric vehicle sales is being met by a rapid increase in charging points. In 2020 Europe had over 220,000 charging stations, compared to around 160,000 in 2019. See how your country is faring in the EV race.

Electric vehicles: a route to much cleaner air

More electric cars doesn’t just mean more charging stations, it means cleaner air, too. T&E’s analysis of the potential impact of completely electrified fleets in selected European cities shows massive decreases in air pollution. In Brussels, Paris, Madrid and Budapest, a move to complete electrification would reduce deadly PM2.5 by over half. A recent review of the latest research on air pollution from electric vehicles indicates that the benefits may be even larger than assumed. However, cities can clean up quicker if they combine this with a modal shift that includes more active travel and more public transport.

Not all aviation emissions are treated equally

When it comes to aviation, not all emissions are treated equally. European legacy carriers have long escaped efforts to include flights outside of Europe in the EU’s carbon pricing scheme. This has meant low-cost carriers paying disproportionately more in carbon taxes. It comes as no surprise therefore that the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet have joined environmental groups in calling for an extension of the scheme’s coverage to flights leaving the EU. The dark blue in the chart below shows the emissions that aren’t covered in the current emissions trading system.

Nor are shipping emissions

As the EU weighs up whether to include intra-EU (trade within the EU) only voyages only in its carbon pricing scheme, or extend it to ships leaving and entering the EU, there is a clear divide in the shipping world. Large shipping companies – mostly wealthy container liners – are pushing to limit it to only intra-EU voyages, while short-sea shipping companies favour a larger scope. One only needs to look at the emissions data to understand why. The graph shows how limiting EU ETS to intra-EU only shipping will exempt up to 80% of EU-related emissions of the world’s largest shipping companies, while making smaller companies pay for most of their emissions. It begs the question: is it fair to give such huge exemptions to the largest and most polluting companies? 

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