Indicator: Final energy consumption of transport

A graph shows the final energy consumption in freight and passenger transport between 2005 and 2020 and the targets of the Federal Government (2005 = 100) presented as an index.Click to enlarge
Final energy consumption of freight and passenger transport
Source: German Environment Agency / TREMOD Figure as PDF

Table of Contents


At a glance

  • The Federal Government wants to lower final energy consumption of freight and passenger transport by 15 to 20 % by 2030 compared to 2005.
  • However, final energy consumption in transport seems to stagnate at a high level with an upward trend of freight transport in recent years. It will be difficult to reach the target in either sector.
  • Freight and passenger transport have become significantly more efficient since the early 1990s, but the increased transport performance has led to an increase or stagnation in final energy consumption.
  • As a result of the pandemic, there was an enormous reduction in passenger traffic and therefore in final energy consumption.

Environmental importance

Transport requires energy. Making energy available, distributing and using it are causing multiple problems in a global context.

The predominant source of energy in the transport sector is oil, which is often extracted in or transported through ecologically sensitive areas. Further energy input is needed in refining the crude oil into petrol, diesel or aviation fuel, and finally, the combustion of fuels releases pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. The main focus, however, is on the greenhouse gases that arise from combustion in transport and that are responsible for the global climate change.

For all these reasons, the Federal Government decided to reduce overall energy consumption – including the energy consumption of the transport sector. The Climate Protection Act established sector-specific targets for greenhouse gas emissions.


Assessing the development

Final energy⁠ consumption is the consumption required to operate the vehicles. In the long term, the development of final energy consumption in transport didn’t show a clear direction: until 1999, consumption initially increased, then decreased and has been increasing again since 2010. From 2005 to 2019, the final energy consumption of passenger transport increased by around 1.3 %. In freight transport, on the other hand, it rose by around 6.6 % over the same period. Nevertheless, over the same time frame, transport performance rose faster than its energy consumption. As a result, both transport sectors have become significantly more energy-efficient, however, the target of absolute energy savings was not achieved. Due to the pandemic, passenger transport showed a sharp drop in final energy consumption in 2020. However, this does not indicate a general trend.

In its Energy Concept the German Federal Government set an energy-saving target for the transport sector in 2010. By 2020, final energy consumption should have been 10 % below 2005 levels, and should be 40 % below by 2050 (BMWi, BMU 2010). In its revised Sustainable Development Strategy of 2016, the Federal Government has defined an intermediate target for 2030 (BReg 2016). By then, energy consumption in the passenger as well as in the freight transport sector should fall by 15 to 20 %.

If the energy consumption of transport is to fall, the main thing that needs to happen is that transport demand must fall or slow down, energy-efficient alternatives must be promoted more strongly, or transport performance must shift to more environmentally friendly modes of transport (cf. ‘Environmentally friendly passenger transport’ and ‘Environmentally friendly freight transport’).



Final energy⁠ consumption in the transport sector is calculated using the tool TREMOD (Transport Emission Model), based on mileage, traffic performance and specific energy consumption. TREMOD was developed by the ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Heidelberg, commissioned by the German Environment Agency. Methodological backgrounds are found on their website.

The Federal Government determines the final energy consumption of the transport sector as part of its energy transition monitoring, using data provided by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AGEB) as a baseline. These, in turn, are based on fuel sales. The data used for our indicator on the basis of TREMOD are different from those used by AGEB.

More detailed information: 'Endenergieverbrauch und Energieeffizienz des Verkehrs' (in German only).