Transport More Efficient in U.S. While Consumption Increases

02.15.18 | Blog | By:

Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Annual Energy Outlook 2018. Key insights from the transportation portion of the outlook included the following:

  • Fuel Economy: Increases in fuel economy standards temper growth in motor gasoline consumption, which decreases by 31% between 2017 and 2050. Increases in fuel economy standards result in heavy-duty vehicle energy consumption and related diesel use ending at approximately the same level in 2050 as in 2017, despite rising economic activity that increases the demand for freight truck travel.
  • Fuel Demand: Excluding electricity and other transportation fuels, which are at comparatively low levels in 2017, jet fuel consumption grows more than any other transportation fuel over the projection period, rising 64% from 2017 to 2050, as growth in air transportation outpaces increases in aircraft energy efficiency. Motor gasoline and distillate fuel oil’s combined share of total transportation energy consumption decreases from 84% in 2017 to about 70% in 2050 as the use of alternative fuels increases.
  • Travel Demand: Continued growth in on-road travel demand (see chart below) increases energy consumption later in the projection period, because current fuel economy and GHG standards require no additional efficiency increases for new vehicles after 2025 for light-duty vehicles and after 2027 for heavy-duty vehicles.

  • Electric Vehicles: The combined share of sales attributable to gasoline and flex-fuel vehicles (which use gasoline blended with up to 85% ethanol) declines from 95% in 2017 to 78% in 2050 because of the growth in the sales of electric vehicles. Battery-electric vehicle (BEV) sales increase from less than 1% of total U.S. vehicle sales in 2017 to 12% in 2050, shown in the figure below. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales increase from less than 1% to 2% over the same period. In 2025, the year the California ZEV program and new federal fuel economy standards go into full effect, projected sales of BEV and PHEV vehicles reach 1.1 million, or about 7% of projected total vehicle sales in the Reference case. Sales of the longer-ranged 200- and 300-mile electric vehicles grow over the entire projection period, tempering sales of the shorter-range 100-mile electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.


Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.