This includes cars, vans, buses and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), which currently use fossil fuels for internal combustion engines (ICE). We also consider the impact of rail, aviation and shipping in achieving net zero emissions.


Key insights

Total annual demand for road transport in 2050

Transport Key Insights


  • Even in the slowest decarbonising scenario, no new cars with ICEs will be sold after 2040, including Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). This means all cars on the road will be ultra-low emission by 2050 at the latest, resulting in a 60% reduction in energy demand for road transport compared to today.

  • System Transformation has 7.5 times more hydrogen cars, vans and lorries compared to our other net zero scenarios. Other modes of domestic and international transport, such as aviation and shipping, use hydrogen and bioresources to some extent in all net zero scenarios. As more consumers start to own Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), smart charging and Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) uptake will increase helping to manage higher renewable supplies on the electricity system. This combined flexibility lead to up to 32 GW of peak shaving in Consumer Transformation by 2050.

  • It’s essential that consumers are encouraged to change their consumption patterns through appropriate Time of Use Tariffs (TOUTs), whilst protecting vulnerable consumers. We assume that the trigger point for residential consumers moving to dynamic tariffs is getting an EV. In Leading the Way over 80% of consumers engage in smart charging, and 45% in V2G services.


Where are we now?

The road transport sector used over 400 TWh of energy in 2020, equivalent to 1132 MtCO2e. This accounts for 30% of total energy demand in Great Britain and 23% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other forms of transport, including rail, aviation and shipping also need to embrace decarbonisation. Currently, 40% of the UK’s rail network is electrified, with the rest reliant on diesel trains. Aviation and shipping rely solely on fossil fuels. In 2018, shipping accounted for 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and aviation 7%.

Scenario Overviews - Transport

Consumer Transformation

Annual energy demand for road transport in Consumer Transformation

The route to 2050

  • In the mid-2020s, higher levels of consumer engagement result in more people opting to use public transport where feasible.

  • The 2030 petrol and diesel ban for cars and vans is met, followed by PHEV from 2035.

  • By the mid-2030s, uptake of hydrogen lorries begins to increase. This is accompanied by a similar increase in electric lorries.

  • Smart charging of BEVS is widespread from the 2040s to help balance the local and national networks.

What does 2050 look like?

  • Total demand for road transport in 2050 is 133 TWh. This is the scenario with the lowest demand, using minimal amounts of hydrogen. Most forms of road transport use electricity.

  • Hydrogen use in this scenario is mainly for HGVS, which rely on a regional refuelling Infrastructure, since there is no national hydrogen network in this scenario.

  • Most privately owned BEV cars are used to support the grid, with 25% of households providing flexibility via V2G services.

System Transformation

Annual energy demand for road transport in System Transformation

Overview ST

The route to 2050

  • The ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans is two years late in 2032. PHEVs are banned in 2035, along with new internal combustion engine (ICE) van sales.

  • From the mid-2030s, consumer uptake of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVS) Increases in line with the development of local and national hydrogen infrastructure.

  • HGVS begin to decarbonise from the 2030s, with the majority switching to hydrogen as the national refuelling network develops in to the 2040s.

What does 2050 look like?

  • Total demand for road transport in 2050 is 153 TWh. This is our highest net zero scenario road transport demand, in part due to the higher uptake of hydrogen vehicles - reaching over three million HFCVS - and the subsequent lower efficiencies that come with using hydrogen compared to electricity.

  • Consumers are not actively encouraged, either by local or national schemes, to ride share, walk or cycle.

  • This scenario has high numbers of autonomous vehicles (AVS) (5.9 million), with many consumers investing in them for private use.

Leading the Way

Annual energy demand for road transport in Leading the Way

leading the way

The route to 2050

  • From the mid-2020s, consumers frequently use public transport or active travel such as walking or cycling instead of driving where possible.

  • The petrol and diesel ban is effective for cars and vans in 2030, PHEVs sales banned from 2032.

  • Cars and vans are mainly electric, supported by the widespread national rollout of charging infrastructure, as well as smart charging devices at home.

  • HGVS begin to use hydrogen from the mid-2030s, with some using electric batteries.

What does 2050 look like?

  • Total demand for road transport in 2050 is 139 TWh.

  • BEV cars and vans are on the road are lowest in this scenario, at around 25 million, as many consumers choose public transport, or use ride haling apps for longer journeys. This is reflected in the relatively low numbers of AVS in this scenario (1.8 million) compared to the miles driven (90,500 miles).

  • BEV cars smart charge at home or at the office, frequently paired with on-site solar PV and batteries to encourage self-consumption.

Steady Progression

Annual energy demand for road transport in Steady Progression

Transport - Steady Progression

The route to 2050

  • From the 2020s, natural gas becomes the dominant alternative fuel for buses and HGVS.

  • The petrol and diesel new car sales ban comes into place in 2035, with PHEV and van sales banned from 2040.

  • By 2030, there are some AVs on the road. They increase availability and popularity throughout this decade.

  • Some buses are electrified by the 2040s, supported by limited government policy.

What does 2050 look like?

  • Total demand for road transport in 2050 is 163 TWh. This is the only scenario with petrol, diesel and natural gas demand for road transport by 2050, although with significant reductions due to the uptake of privately owned BEV and lower numbers of PHEV cars.

  • However, there is a comparatively slower uptake in BEV and PHEV vans. 

  • There are around 38 million BEV and PHEV cars and vans on the road - the highest out of all scenarios.

  • 5% of households take part V2G services, with over 50% using smart chargers at home or at the office.

Rail, aviation and shipping

By 2050, trains mostly use electricity as the energy source (either directly or through battery technology) in Consumer Transformation and Leading the Way. In System Transformation, electricity as an energy source is also used for trains, with some hydrogen trains also present, due to the ready supply of hydrogen. Rail travel in Steady Progression is not successfully decarbonised, with diesel trains still frequently in use by 2050.

For shipping, all our net zero scenarios are broadly similar, with the roll-out of hydrogen converted to ammonia beginning in 2040 and used in place of heavy fuel oil.

Synthetic fuels replace traditional jet fuel in aviation. In all of our net zero scenarios, 10 TWh of synthetic fuel is used. A further 41 TWh of biofuel is used to create bio-jet fuel with BECCS.