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Use of energy explained Energy use for transportation

Cars, vans, and buses are commonly used to transport people. Trucks, airplanes, and trains are used to move people and freight. Barges and pipelines move freight or bulk quantities of materials.

EIA estimates that cars, light trucks, and motorcycles account for the largest shares of total U.S. transportation sector energy consumption.

Estimates for the percentage shares of total U.S. transportation energy use by types or modes of transportation in 2020 are:1

  • light-duty vehicles (cars, small trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles, and motorcycles)55.5%
  • commercial and freight trucks24.4%
  • jets, planes, and other aircraft7.6%
  • boat, ships, and other watercraft4.6%
  • trains and buses2.4%
  • the military, all modes2.2%
  • pipelines2.9%
  • lubricants0.5%

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U.S. gasoline consumption for transportation has increased even though overall fuel economy in cars and light trucks has improved

The national average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles, which include passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles, and crossover vehicles, has improved over time mainly because of fuel economy standards the federal government established for those types of vehicles. However, total motor gasoline consumption for transportation has generally increased after fuel economy standards were set because of increases in the number of vehicles in use—especially light pickup trucks, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and crossover vehicles, which have lower fuel economy than many passenger cars—and in the number of miles traveled per vehicle

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1 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021, Table 35, February 2021

Last updated: May 21, 2021