Challenges in Decarbonising the Road Freight Sector

Economic expansion and population growth are expected to drive higher demand for Road Freight, according to a recent study from the International Energy Agency. Moreover, the report finds that electric and fuel cell options are not always available or economically viable for the entire road freight sector.


  • Major emerging economies, including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa, accounted for 27% of global road transport energy demand in 2021, up from 14% in 2000.
  • The total vehicle stock in these economies increased from 185 million in 2000 to approximately one billion by the end of 2021, a fivefold increase.
  • Road transport fuel consumption in these economies is projected to reach 725 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2050, with a peak expected around 2030 in the Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS).
  • In the Announced Pledges Scenario (APS), fuel consumption is projected to peak at around 660 Mtoe by the end of this decade, decreasing to 500 Mtoe by 2050 due to fuel economy improvements, increased electricity use, and some hydrogen adoption.
  • More than 40% of transport energy consumption will come from electricity as the electric vehicle fleet expands, emphasizing the importance of decarbonising electricity generation and modernizing grids.


  • Global CO2 emissions from the road transport sector increased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2021, reaching almost 6 Gt CO2.
  • Emissions from light-duty vehicles and trucks in the selected emerging economies contributed to around 60% of this increase, with India and China being the largest contributors.


  • Significant investment is required for the road transport sector’s transition to cleaner technologies.
  • In the STEPS, annual end-use investment needs to reach USD 110 billion in the second half of the 2020s, with additional increases required through 2050.
  • In the APS, annual investment needs to reach USD 150 billion between 2026 and 2030, rising to over USD 230 billion by 2050.
  • Most of the investment in the APS is expected in China, but other major emerging economies like India and Indonesia will see rapid growth in investment.
  • Investment in electric vehicles (EVs) should increase to USD 90 billion in 2026-2030 in the APS, with planned policies accounting for 80% of this investment.
  • Energy efficiency spending needs to double by 2030 in the APS to support the road transport transition.


  • Strengthen transport policy making.
  • Promote public transport and demand management.
  • Accelerate the electrification of cars and two-/three-wheelers.
  • Enhance fuel economy standards.
  • Boost the uptake of sustainable bio fuels.

The road transport sector faces significant challenges in its journey toward decarbonization, requiring substantial investments and policy efforts to promote cleaner and more sustainable options.


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