Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency Links

 

Office of Energy Efficiency

Menu

Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada, 1990 to 2009

PDF Version | Table of Contents | Next Page

Chapter 6: Transportation sector

Overview — Transportation energy use and GHG emissions

Transportation was second to the industrial sector in terms of energy use but was first in terms of the amount spent on energy in 2009.

The transportation sector is a diverse sector that includes several modes: road, air, rail and marine transport. Canadians use these modes to move passengers and freight. This chapter describes the energy consumed for both.

In 2009, Canadians (individuals and companies) spent $63.4 billion on transportation energy, the most of any sector in Canada and 90 percent more than the industrial sector. This high level of spending is a result of the notably higher price of transportation fuels compared with the price of energy used in other sectors.

The transportation sector accounted for the second largest amount of energy use in Canada, 30 percent of the total (Figure 6.1), and the largest amount of energy-related GHG emissions, 38 percent (Figure 6.2). This sector produces a larger share of the GHG emissions because the main fuels used for transportation are more GHG-intensive compared with those for other sectors of the economy.

Figure 6.1 – Secondary energy use by sector, 2009

Figure 6.1 – Secondary energy use by sector, 2009.

Figure 6.2 – GHG emissions by sector, 2009

Figure 6.2 – GHG emissions by sector, 2009.

In the transportation sector, passenger modes consumed 55 percent of total energy use, while the freight subsector accounted for 42 percent and off-road vehicles used the remaining 4 percent (Figure 6.3). Off-road vehicles include all vehicles that are principally used off public roads, such as snowmobiles and lawnmowers. Off-road transportation is not analysed in this report, because few data are available for these vehicles and their share of energy consumption is small.

Figure 6.3 – Energy use by subsector, 2009

Figure 6.3 – Energy use by subsector, 2009.

Trends — Transportation energy use and GHG emissions

Growth in freight transport drove energy demand in the transportation sector.

Between 1990 and 2009, total transportation energy use increased 37 percent, from 1,877.9 PJ to 2,576.6 PJ, and the associated GHG emissions rose 36 percent, from 131.4 Mt to 178.3 Mt.

Freight was the fastest growing subsector, accounting for 62 percent of the change in total transportation energy use. The increased use of heavy trucks, which are relatively more energy-intensive when compared with the other modes, accounts alone for 81 percent of this increase in freight energy use and 50 percent of the increase in total transportation.

Figure 6.4 – Transportation sector energy use by energy source, selected years

Figure 6.4 – Transportation sector energy use by energy source, selected years.

Growth in freight transportation contributed to a 75 percent increase in the demand for diesel fuel.

Motor gasoline and diesel fuel oil, as seen in Figure 6.4, are the main fuels used in the transportation sector, accounting for 86 percent of the total energy use. In order of amount used, aviation turbo fuel, heavy fuel oil (HFO), ethanol, propane, aviation gasoline, electricity and natural gas are also reported. Motor gasoline dominates the market with 54 percent of the total transportation energy, followed by diesel at 32 percent and finally by other energy sources, which account for 14 percent.

Between 1990 and 2009, diesel fuel consumption increased 75 percent due to more widespread use of heavy trucks on Canadian roads, which alone accounts for more than 99 percent of this increase. However, motor gasoline use has increased 25 percent, of which more than a half (152.4 PJ) can be attributed to passenger vehicles and about a third (90.9 PJ) to freight transportation. Aviation gasoline, propane, HFO and electricity are transportation fuels whose consumption decreased over the period.

Transportation energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improvements in transportation resulted in energy savings of 350.1 PJ, or $8.7 billion, for Canada in 2009.

Between 1990 and 2009, energy efficiency in the transportation sector improved 19 percent, leading to savings of $8.7 billion, or 350.1 PJ of energy (Figure 6.5). These savings were largely a result of improvements in the energy efficiency of passenger light-duty vehicles. Savings generated by this improvement had a significant impact on total energy use because they comprised a large share of vehicles on the road.

Figure 6.5 – Transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009

Figure 6.5 – Transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009.

Trends — Passenger transportation energy use and GHG emissions

Light-duty vehicles (small cars, large cars, light trucks and motorcycles) represent the main type of transport used by Canadians for passenger transportation. Air, bus and rail modes are also used, but to a lesser extent.

For the passenger transportation subsector, energy use is related to passenger-kilometres (Pkm). A passenger-kilometre is calculated by multiplying the number of passengers carried by the distance travelled. Therefore, two passengers travelling in a car for 10 km equals 20 Pkm. As the passenger-kilometres increase, a rise in energy use usually occurs, unless sufficient energy efficiency improvements have taken place to offset the growth in activity.

The number of light-duty vehicles per capita has increased slightly.

Figure 6.6 – Passenger transportation energy indicators, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.6 – Passenger transportation energy indicators, 1990 and 2009.

Between 1990 and 2009, the number of vehicles per person aged 18 years and older increased slightly, from 0.68 in 1990 to 0.71 by 2009. The distance in passenger-kilometres accumulated by light-weight vehicles for the purpose of passenger transportation (excluding urban transportation and buses) increased on average by 2.0 percent per year. The distance in passenger-kilometres for urban transportation and buses increased on average by 1.9 percent per year in the same period. There is therefore a relative decrease in the share of public transit. The energy use for passenger transportation rose by 19 percent, from 1,179.0 PJ to 1,405.8 PJ between 1990 and 2009. The associated GHG emissions increase was 17 percent, from 81.7 to 95.5 Mt.

The mix of fuels for passenger transport has remained relatively constant. Motor gasoline was the main source of energy, representing 76 percent of the fuel mix in 2009, followed by aviation turbo fuel and diesel fuel (Figure 6.7).

Figure 6.7 – Passenger transportation energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.7 – Passenger transportation energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2009.

More Canadians drive minivans and SUVs.

The choices that Canadians make to meet their transportation needs contribute to the growth in energy use. A greater share of Canadians bought light trucks (including minivans and sport utility vehicles [SUVs]), which usually have less favourable fuel consumption ratings than cars. In 2009, 41 percent of all new passenger vehicle sales were light trucks, compared with 26 percent in 1990. This change, characterized by a shift away from the use of cars to the use of light trucks, brought about a large increase in passenger transportation energy use. Between 1990 and 2009, light-truck energy use increased more quickly than any other passenger transportation mode, rising 116 percent (Figure 6.8).

Figure 6.8 – Passenger transportation energy use by mode, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.8 – Passenger transportation energy use by mode, 1990 and 2009.

Air transport is rising in popularity.

Canadians have been steadily increasing their use of air transportation since 1990. Between 1990 and 2009, aviation passengers’ activity increased 84 percent.

However, in the same period, growth in energy use was significantly less at 32 percent, pointing to the increasing efficiency of the industry. Two key factors have contributed to this improvement in efficiency. The first factor is the growing effort on the part of carriers to match their aircraft size with the size of the market by increasing their overall load factor. The second factor is the implementation of the “Open Skies” agreement between Canada and the United States, which came into effect in 1994–1995. The agreement made it possible to add several short routes provided by regional carriers with smaller aircraft.12

Passenger transportation energy intensity and efficiency

Energy intensity

Passenger transportation energy intensity is defined as the amount of energy required to move one person over 1 kilometre. Between 1990 and 2009, energy intensity decreased by 17 percent, from 2.3 MJ per Pkm travelled to 1.9 MJ/Pkm. An improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency is the main reason for this change. Average fuel efficiency is measured by litres used per 100 kilometres (L/100 km).

Figure 6.9 shows that the average fuel efficiency improved for all types of transportation except rail for the period 1990–2009. Bus and urban transit achieved the greatest improvement in energy intensity with a decrease of 29 percent, followed by air transportation with 28 percent. In third place are motorcycles with a reduction of 24 percent. Finally, cars and light trucks improved by 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Passenger rail intensity was 4 percent higher than in 1990.

There were two major contributors to the rise in passenger energy use since 1990. First was the increased popularity of light trucks, which consume more fuel than cars. Second, light trucks have the highest level of energy intensity of the modes of transport studied.

Figure 6.9 – Passenger transportation energy intensity, by modes, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.9 – Passenger transportation energy intensity, by modes, 1990 and 2009.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improvements in passenger transportation generated energy savings of 263.3 PJ, or $6.7 billion, in the transportation sector in 2009.

The amount of energy used for passenger travel increased 19 percent, rising from 1,179.0 PJ in 1990 to 1,405.8 PJ in 2009. Also, energy-related GHG emissions increased 17 percent, from 81.7 Mt to 95.5 Mt.13 As seen in Figure 6.10, without energy efficiency improvements, energy use would have increased 42 percent during the period, instead of the observed 19 percent.

Figure 6.10 – Passenger transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009

Figure 6.10 – Passenger transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009.

Figure 6.11 illustrates the influence of various factors on the change in passenger transportation energy use between 1990 and 2009. These effects are the following:

  • activity effect — The activity effect (i.e. passenger-kilometres travelled) increased energy use by 45 percent, or 457.5 PJ, with a corresponding 31.1-Mt increase in GHG emissions. This rise in passenger-kilometres (and therefore, activity effect) is mainly due to an increase of 161 percent in the light-truck activity and 84 percent in air transportation.

  • structure effect — Changes to the mix of transportation modes, or the relative share of passenger-kilometres travelled by air, rail and road, are used to measure changes in structure. Therefore, an overall change in the structure would result in a decrease (increase) in energy use if a relative share of a more (or less) efficient transportation mode increases relative to other modes. The relative shares of passenger-kilometres have seen a strong increase in passenger air transportation and light trucks. The overall effect on the structure was positive, given that the popularity of minivans and SUVs increased the activity share of light trucks compared with other modes, contributing to a 32.4-PJ increase in energy consumption and a 2.2-Mt increase in GHG emissions.

  • energy efficiency effect — Improvements in the energy efficiency of passenger transportation produced energy savings of 263.3 PJ and helped prevent the release of 17.9 Mt of energy-related GHG emissions. The light-duty vehicle segment (cars, light trucks and motorcycles) of passenger transportation represented 73 percent of these energy savings.

Figure 6.11 – Impact of activity, structure and energy efficiency on the change in passenger transportation energy use, 1990–2009

Figure 6.11 – Impact of activity, structure and energy efficiency on the change in passenger transportation energy use, 1990–2009.

Trends — Freight transportation energy use and GHG emissions

The freight subsector in Canada includes four modes: trucking, air, marine and rail. The trucking mode is divided into three truck types: light, medium and heavy. Energy use for freight transportation is related to tonnekilometres (Tkm). One tonne-kilometre represents the movement of one tonne of goods across one kilometre.

Freight energy use increased 67 percent, from 645.6 PJ in 1990 to 1,077.6 PJ in 2009. As a result, energy-related GHG emissions produced by freight transportation increased 66 percent, from 46.0 Mt in 1990 to 76.5 Mt in 2009. Figure 6.12 illustrates that energy use increased for all modes of freight trucking. Heavy and light trucks showed the largest increase in energy use, accounting for the majority of energy consumed for freight transportation in 2009. However, marine, rail and air declined 17 percent, 1 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Figure 6.12 – Freight transportation energy use by mode, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.12 – Freight transportation energy use by mode, 1990 and 2009.

The mix of fuels used in the freight subsector remained relatively constant between 1990 and 2009. Diesel fuel continued to be the main source of energy, comprising 71 percent of the fuel consumed for freight transportation in 2009 (Figure 6.13).

Figure 6.13 – Freight transportation energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.13 – Freight transportation energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2009.

Just-in-time delivery pushes the demand for heavy-truck transportation.

The move toward just-in-time inventory for many companies has had a major impact on the freight subsector. Just-in-time inventory limits the use of warehouse space for inventory and instead relies on orders arriving at the company just as they are required for production. By using transportation vehicles as virtual warehouses, companies require an efficient and on-time transportation system, such needs usually being met by the use of heavy trucks. As a result, heavy truck use for freight transportation has been increasingly significant over the period between 1990 and 2009 (Figure 6.14).

During the same period, the number of heavy trucks increased 19 percent, and the average distance travelled increased 15 percent to reach 82,863 km per year. However, heavy trucks are not only travelling longer distances but also carrying more freight as the number of trailers they pull increases. These factors are having a major impact on the tonne-kilometres and energy use that heavy trucks are contributing to the freight subsector.

Figure 6.14 – Freight transportation energy indicators, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.14 – Freight transportation energy indicators, 1990 and 2009.

Rail remains the main mode for moving goods in Canada.

For many commodities, such as coal and grain, trucks are not an efficient means of transportation. Instead, rail and marine are still heavily relied upon. As a result, they make up the largest portions of the freight sector’s activity. Rail ranks first in terms of tonne-kilometres in transported goods, with 299.6 billion Tkm in 2009, or 21 percent more than in 1990. The use of heavy trucks surpassed all other modes, with a 173 percent growth since 1990. In third position, marine transportation was used for 208.0 billion Tkm in 2009, an increase of 10 percent relative to 1990.

Figure 6.15 – Freight transportation energy use versus activity by mode, 1990 and 2009

Figure 6.15 – Freight transportation energy use versus activity by mode, 1990 and 2009.

Since 1990, all modes of freight transportation have become more efficient in terms of energy use relative to tonne-kilometres moved. Figure 6.15 shows that the relative efficiency of rail and marine is greater than that of trucks at moving goods. These two modes of transportation have two of the highest levels of activity and a relatively low energy use. However, over the period, trucks increased in efficiency because their on-road average fuel consumption improved, from 42.5 L/100 km in 1990 to 33.4 L/100 km in 2009.

Freight transportation energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improvements in freight transportation resulted in energy savings of 86.8 PJ, or $2 billion, in the transportation sector in 2009.

Between 1990 and 2009, energy use by freight transportation increased 67 percent, from 645.6 PJ to 1,077.6 PJ. Without energy efficiency improvements, energy use would have increased 80 percent, or 13 percent more than observed in 2009 (Figure 6.16).

Figure 6.16 – Freight transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009

Figure 6.16 – Freight transportation energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990–2009.

Figure 6.17 illustrates the influence that various factors had on the change in freight transportation energy use between 1990 and 2009. These effects are the following:

  • activity effect — The activity effect (i.e. tonne-kilometres moved) increased energy use by 41 percent, or 263.2 PJ, and caused a corresponding 18.7-Mt increase in GHG emissions. This increase in the number of tonne-kilometres was mainly due to an increase of 173 percent in heavy-trucks activity and an increase of 41 percent in medium-trucks activity.

  • structure effect — Changes to the mix of transportation modes, or the relative share of tonne-kilometres travelled by air, marine, rail and road, are used to measure changes in structure. Therefore, an overall change in the structure would result in a decrease (increase) in energy use if a relative share of a more (or less) efficient transportation mode increases relative to other modes. The shift between modes was the increase in the share of freight moved by heavy trucks relative to other modes. The overall effect on the structure was positive, given the increase in Canada-United States trade and the just-in-time delivery demanded by clients, thus contributing to a more intensive use of truck transportation. Therefore, the analyses show an increase of 255.6 PJ in energy use and 18.1 Mt more in GHG emissions due to the structure effect.

  • energy efficiency effect — Improvements in the energy efficiency of freight transportation saved 86.8 PJ of energy and 6.2 Mt of GHG emissions. Improvements in freight trucks, mainly light and medium, were a large contributor, representing 79 percent of the savings.

Figure 6.17 – Impact of activity, structure and energy efficiency on the change in freight transportation energy use, 1990–2009

Figure 6.17 – Impact of activity, structure and energy efficiency on the change in freight transportation energy use, 1990–2009.

12 Transport Canada, Assumptions Report 2007-2021: Final Report, Ottawa, December 2007.
13 Electricity accounts for only 0.2 percent of total passenger transportation energy use and is used, for the most part, for urban transit.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page