State of European Transport 2024


Europe must move away from a transport system that relies on burning fossil fuels. But picking the right alternatives is crucial.

  • Fossil fuels in EU transport (2022) 93.5%
  • Biofuels in EU transport (2022) 4.9%
  • Electricity in EU transport (2022) 1.6%

Europe is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, but this is slowly changing as more and more car drivers switch to electric. Direct electrification is the most efficient way to power Europe’s cars and trucks, but hydrogen-based fuels will be needed for planes and ships.

The technologies exist to decarbonise all transport modes; what is crucial now is speed and scale. Importantly, this means avoiding fake solutions like e-fuels for cars or biofuels which are often worse for the planet than the fuels they replace.

Are biofuels the answer?

For years European governments and the EU have promoted biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. This has led to a rapid uptake of biofuels, mainly from food crops.

Since most agricultural land is already being used to produce food, new areas have to be found to meet the ever-increasing demand. This leads to deforestation and the destruction of rich ecosystems, leading to more emissions than the fuels these biofuels replace.

Currently, around 80% of the EU biofuels market is made up of biodiesel, mainly produced from vegetable oils, and 20% consists of bioethanol.

In an attempt to tackle the competition with food crops, waste products like used cooking oil have become popular. However, there are major concerns over their availability and sustainability.

What role can hydrogen and e-fuels play?

Can Europe decarbonise its transport system by 2050?

Europe can almost completely decarbonise its transport system by 2050. But, with electricity supplies limited, it must prioritise hydrogen and e-fuels for planes and ships, where direct electrification is not possible and on top of demand management measures. Due to the inefficiency of e-fuels generation, Europe's planes will require more electricity in 2050 than all the continent's electric cars and trucks. If we use electricity to produce e-fuels for Europe's millions of cars and trucks, there is no way we can reach zero by 2050.

Images and video: Adobe Stock. Scope: EU27. Main numbers come from Eurostat (2024).