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Fleet Management 6 min read

Which transportation method produces the least amount of carbon?

Which transportation method produces the least amount of carbon?

The transportation sector emits more carbon dioxide than any other industry, about ¼ of all CO2 emissions.

Most of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are produced by internal combustion engines (ICE), also known as gas-powered vehicles. Particularly big offenders are individually-owned cars and freight trucks. In fact, driving a two (or more) passenger vehicle alone is one of the two most carbon-intensive activities, as illustrated by Our World in Data.

In 2020, the BBC revealed that the average ICE vehicle, driving on UK roads, produces the equivalent of 180g of CO2 per kilometer. In America, the average passenger vehicle emits 650g of CO2 per kilometer.

Road travel – cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles – make up nearly ¾ of CO2 emissions produced by the transportation sector, a contribution of 45.1%. The remaining amount, 29.4%, is caused by trucks carrying the world's freight. Our World in Data concludes that transportation accounts for 21% of global CO2 emissions.

With these numbers, everyone is pushing towards low-emission travel and logistics. But how do we know which forms of transportation produce the least amount of CO2?

HERE360 reviews the best alternative transportation methods and their benefits.

Did you know the transportation sector releases 6 gigatons of CO2 into the air each year?

Letting go of the gas pedal

Walking and cycling produce the least amount of CO2. But, as everyone knows, they aren't always feasible. Consider the effort required to move massive amounts of eCommerce goods by bicycle or foot. It just wouldn't work.

This is where electric vehicles (EVs) can play a significant part in reducing overall CO2 emissions. Switching to electric fleets and/or e-scooters, electrifying trains and bicycles, (and eventually even airplanes), can help meet demand, complete the last mile and stay aligned with new emissions targets. Currently, as calculated by Our World in Data, rail travel and rail freight emit only one percent of overall transportation emissions. If all train engines were electric, this number could be zero.

While cycling itself doesn't produce CO2, producing the food needed to fuel cyclists does. But, as this graphic suggests, it's not comparable to the CO2 emitted by ICEs.

In addition, electrifying public transit, including car-shares and on-demand rides, can help increase the appeal of shared transportation while supporting city planning that's working to make urban mobility more sustainable. The BBC reported that Brits traveling on light rail or the London Underground results in 1/6 of the emissions created by an equivalent car trip.

It's true, taking an ICE city bus creates CO2, but still only a little over half that of a single-occupancy car journey, and it helps to reduce traffic congestion by reducing the number of cars on roads. Bus emissions can be reduced further as more cities implement electric fleets.

This HERE360 graphic shows that pooled rideshares or catching a train beats being a foot passenger on a ferry, in terms of CO2 emissions produced.

Supporting the switch

If going electric seems daunting, HERE has easy-to-use, location-based solutions to meet the specific needs of EV fleet managers and individual EV drivers.

HERE EV Charge Points and EV Routing for example, can help with the transition while offering the security of knowing you'll never be stranded with a “dead" battery. EV Routing provides precise and efficient route plans according to your EV's energy consumption. HERE EV Charge Points helps locate the correct EV charging station based on your EV's connector type, voltage, and other requirements.

EV Routing

Extending HERE Routing API with EV-specific options, this custom navigation tool has three key advantages:
  • benefit from optimized route time according to battery life and charging stations

With electric bikes, e-scooters, and expanded cycling lanes, what's possible in terms of commuting, long-distance travel, last-mile delivery, and urban mobility is set to change drastically.

Some countries are well ahead of the game, having made policy changes in the 1970s and 80s. The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany for example, all see between ten and twenty-six percent of their populations on two-wheels and continue to create advanced cycling infrastructure.

Reducing CO2 on the way to school is the next step. Wouldn't it be great to see electric school buses?

The big buzz about EVs

The average American car lasts between thirteen and seventeen years and will contribute 8.89kg of CO2 per gallon of gas used. If it consumes 4840 gallons (the average) in its lifespan, it will emit forty-three tonnes of CO2.

Electric sedan-style cars, on the other hand, consume 37.3MWh (megawatts per hour) of energy in a lifetime and contribute 15.5 tonnes of CO2. (This does not include the additional, indirect emissions caused during manufacturing and the use of the electric grid).

If all new sedan-type cars were electric, the world would see an immediate savings of about 0.55 gigatons of CO2. This change could happen soon. The International Council on Clean Transportation expects EVs to make up ten to fifteen percent of new vehicle sales, worldwide, by the year 2025.

Streamline your electric fleet with EV Routing – and know where to find your next charge with HERE EV Charge Points.

Jasmine Reimer

Jasmine Reimer

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