Most Of World’s Transportation Energy Use Is For Passenger Travel

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Originally published on US EIA.

The transportation of people and goods accounts for about 25% of all energy consumption in the world. Passenger transportation, in particular light-duty vehicles, accounts for most transportation energy consumption—light-duty vehicles alone consume more than all freight modes of transportation, such as heavy trucks, marine, and rail.

Source: : U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Transportation Energy Demand Determinants (ITEDD-2015) model estimates

The United States was the world’s largest transportation energy consumer in 2012, the most recent year with detailed international transportation data by mode. The United States, where on-road passenger travel is especially prevalent, consumed 26 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 13 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (b/d), representing 25% of global transportation energy demand in 2012.

Major European countries (those in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD) and China are also major transportation energy consumers, at 19 quadrillion Btu and 13 quadrillion Btu, respectively. In contrast to both the United States and OECD Europe, on-road transportation energy use in China more heavily reflects freight movement instead of passenger travel. Together these three regions represent more than 50% of world transportation energy consumption.

While on-road use accounts for the largest share of transportation energy in all regions of the world, there is considerable variation across regions in the use of other modes of transportation. For instance, in South Korea marine transport accounts for one-fourth of the country’s total transportation energy use, demonstrating the importance of marine transport in this peninsula nation whose economy relies heavily on exports with major trading partners reached by maritime travel. In Australia and New Zealand, air travel accounts for nearly 20% of total transportation energy consumption, compared with 11% in the United States and 6% in China. In Australia, regional air travel helps connect coastal population centers and the sparsely populated interior.

Source: : U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Transportation Energy Demand Determinants (ITEDD-2015) model estimates

Global transportation energy consumption is dominated by two fuels: motor gasoline (including ethanol blends) and diesel (including biodiesel blends). Together, these two fuels accounted for 77% of total transportation consumption in 2012. Motor gasoline is used primarily for the movement of people, especially by light-duty vehicles, while diesel fuel is used mostly for the movement of goods, especially by heavy-duty trucks. Jet fuel accounts for 12% of transportation energy consumption, followed by residual fuel oil with 9%. Petroleum products account for the largest share of transportation energy use by far; nonpetroleum fuels account for very small portions of the world energy mix, with natural gas and electricity each accounting for about 1% of total transportation energy.

Source: : U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Transportation Energy Demand Determinants (ITEDD-2015) model estimates

Reprinted with permission.

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29 thoughts on “Most Of World’s Transportation Energy Use Is For Passenger Travel

  • Another excuse to repeat my campaign to end the use of obsolete fossil-era energy units like BTUS. Besides, they aren’t SI. Kilowatt-hours, please (or multiples).

    A lot of the world’s rail is already electric: the Trans-Siberian is electrified all the way to Vladivostok. It doesn’t matter how much energy electric rail transport uses, in the perspective of an all-renewable electricity supply.

    • Hours are not SI so Kilowatt-hours aren’t SI either. Use Joules or Watt-seconds or deal with humans trying to cope with big numbers.

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  • The 3 most important things to do to save the planet in priority order are:

    1. stop burning coal,
    2. stop burning coal,
    3. stop burning coal.

    It is very, very important to read this article in the context of total world energy consumption or else things which are small problems look much larger. Since transport energy is 25% of world energy consumption, saying air transport is 12% of transport is the same as saying it is 3% of total world energy. In the general scheme of things in GHG considerations 3% is a small problem that can be dealt with after we stop burning coal (and not worth all the money going into HS rail).

    At the other end of the spectrum, the 40% of transport energy going to motor gasoline is only 10% of *total* energy use and while important, is not nearly as important as electricity generation and gas heating and cooking.

    I notice a disproportionate concern among some with auto use and air transport possibly because we all see cars and airplanes every day while few f us ever see a power plant. A 500 mw power plant uses roughly 3,337 tons of coal per day. The largest power plant in the US has an average of 4 trains a day bringing coal. Each train is 124 cars long.

    • I don’t see any reason why we would delay cutting 25% of emissions (transport emissions) while cutting coal emissions. Doesn’t make any sense. Cut all emissions as quickly as possible. If EVs are ready to replace gasmobiles, do it. If renewables are ready to replace coal, do it. Luckily, both things are the case today in the majority of instances, imho.

      But we certainly shouldn’t say, “don’t eat fruits and veggies every day. drink water instead of soda.” we should be eating fruits & veggies and also drinking water.

      • You are absolutely right – we can stop drinking soda and eat our veggies at the same time!

        I kinda agree with him though, that the $68B CA high speed rail and the $151B North East corridor proposal should come after gov’t money helps to rid the US of coal.

        Plus no more $452B/yr for FF subsidies from G20. That alone could add roughly 452 GW in wind and solar capacity each year, which, at a very conservative 1 kWh/year for each W, would add up to our 160,000TWh appetite in some 300+ years.

        What do we conclude? Markets make the choices and gov’t money and policy are just slightly helpful levers. Although, a true carbon tax would make the biggest difference by far.

        • I think that’s his point – not that we can’t, or shouldn’t, do both, but that we should focus our efforts on where they will be most effective… which is currently in eliminating coal.

          • The best way to do that would be to yank the FF subsidies, and put a price on everything goig up a smokestack or out a tailpipe. Also time to raise revenue for road maintenence with an increase in the gas tax.

          • Ya know, if we were doing it right, road maintenance should be from use charges, not from gas taxes. If we could do that in conjunction with appropriate emissions fees, it would point the incentives in the right direction. Of course, optimal pricing probably isn’t on the table, so I suppose slightly less bad pricing schemes should be considered.
            Sketch of near-optimal (?) pricing:
            Two main things: Wear and tear, and congestion.

            Wear and tear on roads is caused mostly by heavily loaded wheels (or is it axle loading that matters?). Cars don’t really have much to do with it; bigger vehicles have a disproportionate impact, and should pay maintenance proportionate to their impact.

            Congestion is concentrated in time. You can make road networks carry more load by evening out that load. I don’t know exactly how best to apportion congestion charges. Obviously, there should be peak charges. Do slower-accelerating vehicle have a greater impact on congestion? A completely non-emitting vehicle in rush-hour traffic still increases pollution by making the rest of the traffic start and stop more. Anyway, time-of-use pricing makes sense in traffic, just as it does in the electrical grid.

          • Well, if you wanted to do that, you would have to mandate a device in the car that would count, and upload the data and charge you say once a month, and make sure it couldn’t be easily disabled. Possible, but not simple.

          • E-ZPass is an RFID system. License plate scanners work, too. Not only possible, but a solved problem. I think we should just use it more extensively.

            Weight-based charges are also already implemented, in the U.S. via the HVUT, although that is only a crude annual fee.
            Note that road damage rises polynomially with the fourth power of weight per axle.

          • Didn’t know about the fourth power thing, but weather, and snow plows also cause damage. The other concern is privacy. Too many of those rfid scanners, and you, or at least your car can be tracked.

          • Weather. Ah, … right. You can tell I don’t live in freeze/thaw country right now.

            As for privacy, police departments in the U.S. are installing license plate readers everywhere anyway. Might as well use them for billing, too. Unless you ban them, that argument is a red herring, or really, just evidence that it isn’t expensive to do the data collection part of billing. How would you ban them in the U.S.? They’re cameras. I believe you can use ATM security cameras as license plate readers. Are you going to outlaw video-recording of roads? That is not a direction that leads to greater liberty.
            Or do you somehow ban databases? No connecting the dots! European-style right to be forgotten rules seem to me to conflict with the common-sense right to remember. We might do better with very public databases. Better that everybody tracks, and everybody knows that everybody tracks, than that only lawbreakers track.

          • Road use billing? Base it on annual miles driven.

            Many places have required annual inspections. If not, set up a system where people can drive through and have one camera shoot their license plate while another shoots their odometer.

            Accidents, traffic stops, car sales – opportunity for reliability checks.

      • You can certainly eat veggies and fruits together, and I agree we need to keep all R&D going, all avenues open, subsidizing the early RE tech in all areas until they get self-sustaining.

        But if there are only so many dollars to spend, we shouldn’t let the fact we see cars every day mean we don’t keep our eye on the hidden monster of coal.

        4 trains a day, each with 124 cars of coal, for one power plant. Oh.My.G*d.

        I guess I was mainly concerned that the article, while correct in detail, may lead some to put too much emphasis on transport – where RE tech is not as far along as wind and solar.

        $68B for the CA HSR (not to mention ongoing operations and maintenance) could buy a *Lot* of solar panels and windmills which are here now and ready to ‘roll’ (so to speak). By all means subsidize EVs, to keep them developing, but if you can only have one subsidy I would rather it be for tech to replace coal.

    • Honestly, I think Stop burning Coal only deserves the top two spots, not three, and I think Zachary is correct that we can and should work on as many aspects of the problem as we can get to,

      As an asthmatic, I may be more concerned with pollutants other than CO2 than most at this site, so I do think transportation deserves the number three spot.

      Despite this, you have a good point. Thank you.

    • So….
      Those 4 trains a day, each 124 cars long.
      Picture them for a second….
      That’s approximately 50,000 (metric) tons of mass. (At a load of 100 tons per car).
      Now picture them on a slight incline. Perhaps 1%, 40km long.
      Which translates to a total fall of 400m. (And, conveniently, at 40km/h, it would take exactly an hour to traverse the route, as we will refer to later.)

      We don’t even NEED the coal!

      Just fill the cars with waste rock from the mine, and use regenerative braking on the (electric) locomotives.
      F=ma = 500,000,000 kg x 9.8m/s/
      So about 5 x 10 to the nine Newtons
      W=Fxd = 5 x 10 to the nine Newtons x 400m
      Or 2 x 10 to the twelve Joules of potential energy
      In other words, a “battery” with a capacity of 1,400 MWh.
      Or about 200,000 Tesla Powerwalls.
      Just march them all up to the top of the hill when electricity prices are cheap (or even negative) and run then down again when prices increase. Depending on the inefficiencies in the system, it would be pretty easy to calculate the price delta that would make the system feasible.

      (My maths might well be off, and I welcome any corrections. But the numbers are big. Big enough to make one realise just how much energy is used simply to transport coal around before it even gets to the power stations. Horribly inefficient if you have to haul it up any kind of incline which is why they like to build the power plant at the mouth of the mine. Or at least downhill from it.)

      Second-hand coal cars are surprisingly cheap. And likely to get cheaper as coal plants close, I suspect. The technology of regenerative braking for electric locos is already mature. Might need a bit of tweaking to reduce losses (rubber linings on drive wheels?), but the concept is sound and weirdly cheap. There are many thousands of kilometres of unused railway tracks around the world, many associated with abandoned mines. Some of these go down river valleys or other slopes, with a suitable gradient. The most expensive part would probably be the electrification of the line, if necessary, with high voltage catenary cables. But about 50% of railways around the world are already electrified (according to wikipedia).

      With enough of these systems you could essentially replace all the “peaker” plants out there, and most of the “baseload” plants too. Allowing for a much higher penetration of renewable energy.

      But you don’t need an “infinite number of trains”. If you have a reliable system for rapid loading and unloading of the cars, and a dedicated train track, you can basically have one big pile of rock at the top of the hill and another at the bottom. Luckily, the coal industry has already learned how to do this rapid turnaround of trains full of crushed rock.
      Whenever electricity prices are high, the trains go up empty and come down full, in an endless loop. When prices are low, the material is shipped back uphill. Less efficient than the always-full scenario of four trains and one hour of storage, but you now have the capacity for an almost infinite amount of storage, and without the need for lots of extra rolling stock.
      You have a battery that can be charged with 1,400MWh EVERY HOUR, as long as you have more dirt available, and a place to store it,

      The biggest advantage to this system is its ability to cover long-term storage, that hypothetical two week period every few years when renewable production is statistically likely to fall to less than 10% of peak output. Not enough pumped hydro to cover this, as water is a scarce resource, and big dams usually are multi purpose.
      But one thing about dirt, it’s dirt cheap. And places to store large mountains of it are apparently plentiful, based on the large number of mine dumps I see in the Mpumalanga Highveld. And you don’t need a steep escarpment like you do with pumped hydro. A gentle slope is actually better.

      I wonder if there might be a use for coal mining companies, after all…..

  • In the US we could simultaneously cut two heads off of the energy hydra by streamlining permitting for HVDC power lines from the Great Plains to the large coastal electricity markets. This would kill coal almost over night and be entirely market driven. Investors would pay for the power lines and investors would pay for the wind turbines. Wind in the best regions is extremely cheap and does not require the PTS, just power lines to reach the markets –

    Much of the land based wind in the >50% CF regions is night peaking which is exactly when most EVs charge. By creating a path for wind build-out in regions of low wind and high acceptance rates by local population we could rapidly electrify our transportation and raise the effective base load contribution for the daytime from wind.

    • It’s a great idea, but markets have proven themselves unable to build large infrastructure projects like you envision without government intervention. No one company is big enough to build an HVDC line like you envision, just like no one company is big enough to put all of its assets at risk by building a nuclear power plant. This is why we see loan guarantees, grants, and other subsidies from governments to get these things built. The eminent domain issues of such a line would preclude a completely private effort and require substantial government involvement. Not that this is a bad thing, after all, individual companies or even a consortium of companies would have divergent interests from the country as a whole or even the people in the path of the power lines. While people rail against government getting too big, it is the only entity tasked with looking out for the well being of its people.

  • Assuming 25% average efficiency of ICEs (high) and 80% efficiency wall-to-wheels, we need 2400TWh of power annually to electrify passenger vehicles. 272GW 24/7. Not really that much, globally.

    • And with V2G in those vehicles, we’d completely destroy the peaker plant, voltage regulation and frequency regulation markets. Probably the nuclear power industry as well.

      We’re going to need more batteries, I think….

      • (Dramatic music)
        *Squints into a terrifying future, with smoke rising slowly from smouldering cigarette dangling from lips…*
        “You’re going to need a bigger battery.”

      • “…more batteries…” – indeed!

        The figures above are a perfect example of why the enthusiasm for electric vehicles on this blog often gets ahead of physical feasibility:

        13 million boe/day = 13,000,000 x 1,700 kWh. And basic electro-chemistry says you need about 1 kg of lithium to store 10 kWh.

        So assuming these vehicles charge once per day (a pretty reasonable “average” as an assumption), the USA *alone* is going to need 2.2 million tonnes of lithium to have all electric vehicles.

        According to my well-informed friend Wikipedia, world lithium production in 2014 was 36,000 tonnes. And reserves are 13.5 million tonnes. So that’s 61 years of current production levels just to convert the USA’s transport sector to Li-ion (or Li-sulfur, come to that).

        Add in China and the EU and we’re already talking about 136 years of production at current levels and consumption of 5 million out of the 13.5 million tonnes of identified reserves. (Presumably the cheapest lithium is already being extracted, so unless there are technical developments to make extraction much cheaper we can expect the 5 millionth tonne out of the ground to cost substantially more than today’s lithium.)

        Even if lithium production levels were to increase by a factor of 10 in the next few years (something that’s highly doubtful because of the physical lead times to develop mines and mineral extraction), and even if prospecting were to identify a doubling of reserves, it seems highly unlikely to me that planet Earth has the wherewithal for lithium based batteries to fully takeover the powering of the transport system.

        Oh, and we haven’t even got to the GWh of storage that will be required for solar and wind to fully replace hydrocarbon- and nuclear-powered electricity generation. Whatever that storage is going to be, it ain’t going to be lithium if all the lithium is being used in vehicles…

        • It’s ok. We can use sodium-ion batteries for stationary apps. The only question is what to do with all the chlorine the sodium is currently attached to.

        • “13.5 million tonnes of identified reserves. ”

          you are only looking at the reserves listed by lithium producing companies. You have ignored the total resource. For example there is lithium in sea water and we know how to extract it. These is enough lithium in sea water to make 18 trillion Teslas. Add in the great salt lake in Utah, dry lake beads in Nevada,california, and arizona . hard rock lithium resources the amount of lithium available is many orders of magnitude larger than what we need.

          For minerals the easy and low cost sources are tapped first. Then as those deplete you move to resources that cost a little more. As the cost to extract the metal goes up the resource growes exponentially becasue lithium is available in low concentrations everywhere.

          Oil is the oposite of lithium. Oil is not everywhere and oil fields tend to cluster in small areas, and the chepest oil to extrrace comes from the rare very large oil fields. So for oil as the price goes up the amount of oil available actually goes down.b

          • I’m ignoring lithium in sea water for good reason: At a concentration of 0.178 ppm (wt) you have to process 1.24 x 10^13 tonnes of seawater in order to extract 2.2 million tonnes of lithium (and that’s assuming 100% process efficiency). It doesn’t matter what your preferred technology is: evaporation of brine, reverse osmosis, reverse electrodialysis, etc – I’m not talking about the logistics and energy required to *extract* the lithium I’m talking for the moment just about the amount of seawater you have to handle with pumps, pipes, etc.

            In 2010 the total amount of seawater being handled worldwide for desalination was 1.6 x 10^10 tonnes. So extraction of lithium from seawater on any reasonable timescale (e.g. less than 10 years) in order that US vehicles can run on Li batteries will require processing of seawater on a scale that’s 2 – 3 orders of magnitude bigger than what’s currently installed for all the desalination plants worldwide. Such a requirement is *massively* beyond our current resources in terms of equipment production capacities e.g. Ni-resist or duplex stainless steel pumps, transformers for power supply, man-power for installation, etc.

            In terms of energy, if it was to be done with reverse osmosis you’d be overcoming several tens of bar of osmotic pressure. Thus assuming an osmotic pressure barrier of 40 bar you’d need a continuous power supply of 154 GW for the RO (plus pumping power, plus overcoming system losses, plus plus plus) – and that’s if the production of 2.2 million tonnes of lithium was spread over 10 years. If you want all the lithium in one year then it’s 1.54 TW (and just for comparison, the total installed generating capacity of USA in 2013 was 1.04 TW). RED will have a lower power requirement, but by less than an order of magnitude.

            Of course, we can cut out a huge amount of the processing if we first concentrate the lithium by evaporation, but that’s going to take a lot of land (1.24 x 10^13 m3 is going to require more than a million square kilometers even if the “pond” is 10 m deep – so you’d need to flood a land area 2.5x that of California) and the evaporation is not going to happen on the timescales required to enable millions of electric vehicles per year.

            As for extraction of lithium from salt lake brine or other deposits, that’s the current choice because it’s effectively the only choice. I think it’s unlikely that the USGS and similar bodies have overlooked any major salt lakes or other resources, but even if I grant that only 10% of possible reserves have been identified, you’re still going to have to process and extract the stuff. And that means either that you electrolyse molten salt, which will require
            fearsome quantities of energy, or that the lithium in the lake beds will need
            to be dissolved in a solvent (typically water). Which brings us back to
            the problem of handling large quantities of (corrosive) water. Since “salt lakes” and similar deposits are almost by definition in areas where there’s very little water available, mega-scale extraction of lithium is going to require giga-scale engineering of process water and disposal, starting – not least – with where the water’s going to come from…

            I’m not saying that lithium extraction isn’t doable – it very clearly *is* being done right now. All I’m saying is that the basic constraints of engineering feasibility indicate that it will not be possible to replace the USA’s vehicles so that they all operate on lithium-based batteries.

            Silicon-air, sodium-sulfur, organic polymer, or lots of other battery technologies using abundant materials and that I’m too ignorant to know about – maybe; but not lithium.

          • People often confuse reserves with occurrence.

            At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance. There are approximately 39 million tonnes of accessible lithium in the Earth’s crust

            The Nissan Leaf contains 4 kg of lithium. Assume we use 3x as much for each EV in the future. 39 million tonnes = 3,250,000,000 EVs.At some point we start recycling. And if we’re still using lithium further down the road there are approximately 208,652,550,000 tonnes of lithium in seawater.

            The cost of extracting lithium from seawater would increase the cost of lithium about 5x. Since there is not that much lithium in an EV the increased cost would not be exorbitant.

            South Korea is already doing seawater extraction.

        • Okay, I’m a little slow, given that you posted 3 days ago. Where did 13 million boe come from? I looked up boe, and, in context, it refers to a “barrel of oil equivalent”, which is equal to to 1.7 Megawatt-hours, matching your description of 1700 kilowatt-hours. But this is the heat energy you get from burning crude oil, and anyway, the U.S. used 19.11 million barrels of oil/day (including biofuels) in 2014, according to the EIA. Maybe from 19.1 million barrels of crude, you get 13 million barrels of gas+diesel? What about the much higher efficiency of electric motors vs. ICE? According to the only (really old) source I bothered to look at, once you get them juiced up, electrics are about 88% efficient whereas ICEs are about 15% efficient. That would cut 13 million boe to 2.2 million boe.

          Eyeballing the chart in Wikipedia (I’m so embarrassed, where do you find a chart?), it looks like Lithium production has doubled since ~2005. There also appear to be plenty of reserves. Most Lithium still goes to ceramics and alloys (SpaceX uses a lot of Al-Li alloy. I (kiddingly. Colon. Dash. Right Parenthesis.) wonder if Elon Musk is bipolar; he’s such a Lithium junkie. (Please, don’t tell me whether or not Musk is bipolar.) Lithium seems to be produced almost entirely from brines, so there’s not much to the “mining”, so no problem scaling.

        • Oh, and using the vehicle batteries for grid storage is a real possibility, depending on vehicle owner’s access to electricity spot markets. Also, demand-shifting is getting easier and easier.

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