DNV: Electricity to power 23% of global transport by 2050

May 5, 2023
Electricity’s share in powering transport will grow to 23% in 2050 from 1% today, according to a DNV report. Despite this, DNV sees the transportation segment lagging other markets in emissions reduction.

Electricity’s share in powering transport will grow to 23% in 2050 from 1% today, according to DNV’s latest ‘Transport in Transition’ report. Despite this, DNV sees the transportation segment as lagging other markets in emissions reduction, predicting that its share of global energy-related CO2 emissions will grow to 30% by 2050 from roughly 25% now.

DNV projects the number of road vehicles to roughly double, a 130% expansion in airline passenger trips, and 35% growth in cargo tonne-miles in shipping. But it expects overall energy demand from transport to grow by just 8.6% to 114 exajoules/year, due mainly to the increased efficiency of electrified road transport.

Road transport leads the way in reducing the segment’s reliance of fossil fuels, according to DNV, falling from 38 million b/d today, to 19 million b/d in 2050, reducing share from 91% to 57%. Conversely, the consumption of oil within aviation will be virtually flat to 2050, with hydrocarbons set to have a 60% share in the sector in the same year and biofuels meeting 25% of demand.

Driven by the decarbonization push, the fuel mix in the maritime sector will also change. By 2050, it will likely transition from being almost entirely oil-based to an energy mix comprising of 50% low- and zero-carbon fuels, 19% natural gas, and 18% biomass, DNV says.

The report, however, emphasizes the importance of governmental and industry back-up to manage the rise in advanced biofuels for aviation and maritime, with the sustainable fuel expected to be more expensive than fossil fuel counterparts. On the other hand, sectors that can use direct electrification will benefit from the efficiency of electric drivetrains and experience cheaper transport.

The main hurdle to be overcome in expanding the use of biofuels, according to the report, is to make it sustainable. DNV notes already "intense competition for sustainable feedstock for advanced biofuels for aviation and shipping" and predicts that electricity will displace first-generation biofuels in road transport. The classification body sees regulation and consumer-driven demand as being key to advanced biofuel’s continued development saying that it "could cover a quarter of aviation energy demand and possibly a fifth of maritime energy demand."

The energy intensive nature of hydrogen production will allow it to scale into the aviation and maritime segments only from the mid-2030’s, DNV says, adding that "renewable energy should be prioritized for direct use of electricity in the near term until sufficient surplus is available for hydrogen production at scale." Limited decarbonization options for long-distance shipping, however, mean that hydrogen-based fuels like ammonia and methanol could represent 50% of the maritime fuel mix by 2050. At the same time, DNV notes that hydrogen is already being challenged by electricity in the heaviest and longest-distance road shipping segments.

Europe, North America, and China are frontrunners in the uptake of battery electric vehicles, which DNV predicts will make up 78% of the global fleet by 2050. In parallel, those regions are investing in hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels as the most promising option for moving heavy goods over long distances. At the other end of the spectrum, regions including sub-Saharan Africa and Northeast Eurasia remain far from establishing the infrastructure and producing the quantities of renewable electricity required to decarbonize road transport.