Shipping, aviation, and road transport will face profound changes in fuels, electrification, and infrastructure over the next three decades. DNV has quantified this in the annual Energy Transition Outlook. The Transport in Transition is a deep-dive into availability, technology development, costs, policy drivers, and likely uptake of sustainable energy sources in transport sectors through to 2050.
Today, shipping, aviation, and road transport account for almost 25% of overall emissions. DNV forecasts this to rise to 30% by 2050, although total emissions from transport almost halve. The central difficulty for transportation is that much of it will remain fuel-dependent, even though 78% of all road transport will be electric by 2050. So how can sectors work together, and what are the policies needed to accelerate the energy transition of transport?
The DNV Transport in Transition report addresses the profound changes in electrification, fuels, and infrastructure in 2030 and 2050. This fuel-centric forecast sets out DNV’s best estimates on the availability, costs, policy drivers, and likely uptake of decarbonization options in the transport sectors. It also outlines the decline in demand for and use of fossil fuel sources in shipping, aviation, and road transport. The report is part of DNV’s Energy Transition Outlook series.
The central difficulty for transport is that much of it will remain fossil fuel-dependent, even though electricity will revolutionize road transport (78% of which will be electric by 2050).
Transport services will grow significantly in the next 30 years(roughly double the number of road vehicles, 130% in airline passenger trips, and 35% in cargo tonne-miles in shipping). Still, overall energy demand from transport grows only slightly from 105 EJ/yr in 2020 to 114 EJ/yr in 2050, mainly because of the efficiencies associated with the electrification of road transport.
Forward-thinking national transport policies are critical to country-level and regional competitiveness in a decarbonizing and increasingly connected world.
The route to decarbonization is clear: electrify what can be electrified; what cannot be electrified in the near term should be switched to sustainable advanced biofuels; and prepare for hydrogen-based new fuels to scale through local and regional ecosystems to a global ecosystem from 2035.
What electrifies will be cheaper, but hydrogen and sustainable biofuels cannot compete cost-wise with oil and thus need different policy levers to scale.
The future of electric heavy road transport
Within the transport sector, arguably the most significant remaining frontier for innovation and market impact is the electrification of heavy road transport. However, even in this segment, progress in electrification has been much faster than in alternatives such as hydrogen-powered heavy road transport, one reason why several sub-segments that a few years back were believed would be powered by hydrogen are now significantly electrified.
Heavy road transport is not a homogeneous segment; its elements include municipal garbage collection, construction and mining, specialized city logistics, and long-haul delivery. However, some segments will be more manageable to electrify due to the driving patterns, where transport distance and convenient, rapid charging are essential determinants of the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Despite considerable pressure in many markets for commercial logistics companies to reduce their Scope 1 emissions, TCO is a key indicator of which categories will be electrified first. Unlike private owners, logistics companies will likely conduct detailed TCO analyses before switching to electrified vehicles. In addition, with further development of EV truck technology and fast charging, the categories that can be electrified will continue to increase.