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Fuel economy

Improvements in the average fuel consumption of light-duty vehicles have slowed in recent years, significantly below the rate of annual improvement needed to stay on track with global climate goals.

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Key findings

CO2 emissions from cars and vans in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

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Although improvements in fuel economy have increased, more effort needs to be done

Cars and vans accounted for about 8% of global direct CO2 emissions in 2021. Thanks to continuous improvements in engine, powertrain and vehicle technology, the specific fuel consumption of new vehicles has declined.

However, a long-term trend of increasing vehicle size and power has slowed progress. Electrification has more recently emerged as the dominant technology driving down the average fuel consumption of new vehicles. To be on track with the pathway in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, much more rapid improvements in the fuel economy of new conventional (internal combustion engine) vehicles is needed, even as the share of electric vehicle sales will need to continue to grow.

Macroeconomic and energy indicators in the Net Zero Scenario, 2020-2030

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Increasing fuel efficiency standards of all vehicle types is needed

For transport, increasing fuel efficiency standards of all vehicle types is important as even in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, 80% of passenger cars on the road in 2030 are still powered with internal combustion engines. Sales of heavier, less efficient SUVs reached more than 40% of global sales in 2020, while electric vehicles were just 5%. More than 20 countries have recently announced plans to phase out sales of internal combustion engine vehicles, with 2035 set as the milestone for this in the scenario.
Our work

The Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) – a partnership of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Transport Forum of the OECD (ITF), the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis, and the FIA Foundation – works to secure real improvements in fuel economy and the maximum deployment of existing fuel economy technologies in vehicles across the world.

Created in 1990, the AFC TCP seeks to make a significant contribution to address the opportunities and barriers to fuel cell commercialisation by fostering the development of fuel cell technologies and their application on an international basis, and conveying key messages to policy makers and the wider community as appropriate.

Created in 1979, the AMT TCP focuses on materials critical to fuel efficiency improvement for current and future transportation technologies. The AMT TCP conducts co-operative research activities on friction reduction, waste heat recovery, and lightweighting of vehicles. The TCP work programme includes the development of standard test methods, testing, demonstration and design guidelines.

The mission of the AMF TCP is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the potential of advanced motor fuels towards transport sustainability. This is achieved by providing sound information and technology assessments designed to facilitate informed and science-based decisions regarding advanced motor fuels at all levels of decision-making.

The Combustion TCP provides a forum for interdisciplinary exchange and enables international collaborative research to advance the understanding of combustion processes to: accelerate the development of combustion technologies that demonstrate reduced fuel consumption and have lower pollutant emissions in transportation, power generation, industry and buildings, and; generate, compile and disseminate independent information, expertise and knowledge related to combustion for the research community, industry, policy makers and society.