French Environment and Energy Management Agency
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ADEME in action


Context and issues at stake

The transportation sector is greatly responsible for the increase in energy consumption in France and for emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. It currently accounts for 29% of these emissions compared to only 13% in 1960, with consumption by this sector nearly doubling since 1973. Road transportation is by far the leading culprit, accounting for 81% of the energy consumed by all means of transportation combined.
The reasons for this rise in fuel consumption are as follows :
  • Steady growth in passenger and freight traffic, which is the result not only of an increase in the number of trips and the amount of goods traded, but also longer driving distances (the increase in urban and near-urban mobility thanks to the extension of cities partly explains the growth in passenger traffic).
  • Growth in road transportation, which held the largest share of the overall increase in traffic at the expense of other more energy-efficient, less polluting modes, such as rail or river transport. Today, for example, road transportation represents 80% of all domestic freight traffic and 60% of all passenger travel.
The same is observed with regard to emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. Transportation is a major contributor to these emissions (for example, 37% of carbon monoxide and 54% of nitrogen oxide emissions). In this regard, it should be stressed that, in order to operate, the transportation sector is 96% dependent on oil products. This is one of the key reasons for the sector's vulnerability and explains its sizeable contribution to emissions of pollutants generated by the combustion of oil products.

This is also true for emissions of greenhouse gases. The transportation sector is the leading source of carbon dioxide emissions (27% of emissions of greenhouse gases in France, 35% of CO2 emissions). Here again, road transportation is the main culprit. However, technological advances, combined with increasingly stringent regulations, have resulted in more energy-efficient, less polluting vehicles.

For example, voluntary agreements have been signed between the European Commission and automobile manufacturers to significantly reduce vehicles’ unit consumption (and therefore related emissions of carbon dioxide). Moreover, every four or five years new European standards (Euro 3, Euro 4) lower the emissions thresholds of the leading pollutants.

Yet all these efforts are not enough. While it is true that vehicles consume less energy and cause less pollution, the transportation sector is no less responsible for damage to the environment. Indeed, the decrease in vehicles’ unit consumption and emissions is offset by the sharp increase in road traffic. If nothing is done to reverse this trend, this increase would continue over the coming decades making it impossible for France to meet its international commitments concerning greenhouse gas emissions and transboundary pollution. Therefore, regardless of future prospects in the technological arena, action must also be taken to regulate the growth of urban and interurban traffic. It goes without saying that efforts must be made to curtail the growth of road traffic and for this two options can be considered :
  • “Transport less” by reducing traffic volumes (number of trips, driving distances, etc.).
  • “Transport better” by encouraging a shift from road traffic to less polluting modes (rail, river, mass transit). This is the objective underlying ADEME’s actions in terms of transportation.

ADEME's mission

In addition to the role it plays in developing regulations, ADEME carries out a number of activities in the domain of transportation through two departments.

Taking action to develop more fuel-efficient, less polluting vehicles.

This is the role of the Transportation Technologies department. The activities of this department are centred around four main areas : conventional and alternative fuels; emission control systems to reduce exhaust emissions; engines (heat, electric, hybrid, fuel cell), and accessories (air conditioning, tyres, lightening of weight, noise). The vehicles concerned are light or heavy vehicles, two-wheel vehicles and non-road engines (marine, rail, heavy construction equipment).
In each of these areas, ADEME carries out various actions which can be broken down into the following categories :
  • Research and development. ADEME is one of the key players in PREDIT, national programme for research and innovation in ground transportation.
  • Assessment campaigns aimed at providing users and policymakers with reliable information about the various technical solutions available.
  • An assistance programme to promote the use and development of clean, cost-effective technologies. This includes decision-making incentives (fleet analysis), model projects and initiatives (innovative systems), and getting markets off the ground (assistance with the purchase of electric vehicles).
  • The development of decision-making support tools : calculation of the cost per kilometre (Autodiag), display of CO2 emissions of road vehicles (car labelling).
  • Taking action to promote long-term organisation of the transportation system
The Transportation Organisation department focuses its efforts on two key sectors, the importance of which is assessed by ADEME, and attempts to promote the various organisational solutions which can lead to a reduction in traffic volumes (“transport less”) or a change in their modal split in favour of less polluting modes (“transport better”) :
  • Urban transportation : 

    -    In the case of transportation of individuals, this means encouraging individuals, businesses and local governments to reduce the number of trips and use alternatives to private vehicles (Company Commuter Plans, CCP) which include the use of mass transit, eco-mobility for school travel, cycling, carpooling, charter transportation, etc. On a more preventive level and in an effort to reduce travel requirements and/or distances travelled, ADEME’s areas of focus include regional and urban planning policies and their impact on travel and the associated energy and environmental effects.

    -    In the case of in-town delivery of goods, special attention is given to organisational solutions such as Urban Logistics Areas or Urban Distribution Centres (CDU), which use a system of traffic flow concentration to reduce cargo traffic.

  • Long-distance freight transport : this entails, for example, encouraging alternatives to road transportation, such as combined rail-road or river-road transport, or studying the possibility of logistical reorganisation in order to reduce the volume of goods traded.volume.
A number of actions have been taken by the Transportation Organisation department to support all these existing or emerging organisational solutions:
  • Support for research aimed at developing energy and environmental assessment methods, encouraging the emergence of effective organisational solutions, pinpointing behaviours, reasons for modal choices and factors contributing to traffic volumes, and conducting experiments related to the in-town transport of goods or logistical reorganisation.
  • A decision-making support system (feasibility studies on combined transport services), model projects (CCP, road-river combined transport) and energy and environmental impact studies (in collaboration with local governments).
  • The development of tools and methods intended for local governments and businesses: DEED (energy, environment and travel diagnostic for a particular population cluster), the IMPACT software for assessing the energy and environmental impact of a specific fleet of vehicles, and software for assessing the effects of the CCPs.
  • Taking action to change behaviours – a critical mission
One of ADEME’s critical missions is to inform, advise and foster awareness among the general public in an effort change individual behaviours.
The goal is to encourage the best possible use of traditional vehicles and greater use of mass transit and zero emission vehicles.


  • A road map to 2050 for the private vehicle - fuel combination (PDF - 86K - 30/04/2009)
    The findings presented in this report result from the work of a group of independent experts.
    Those taking part in this study agree that perspectives for the private vehicle – fuel combination proposed in this road map are similar to those embraced or potentially embraced by French car manufacturers.

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