Rebound effects in UK transport

While the fuel efficiency of passenger and freight transport has improved, it may have unintentionally increased the number of cars on the road or encouraged the development of larger, more powerful vehicles. What is the nature and magnitude of these rebound effects and their policy implications?

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Start date: 1 September, 2013 - End date: 1 July, 2016

The fuel efficiency of passenger and freight transport has improved significantly in the past and there is considerable potential to improve fuel efficiency further. But while a number of policies are focused upon that goal, the economy-wide ‘energy savings’ may be less than anticipated owing to a variety of unintended consequences. For example, lower running costs may encourage increased ownership and use of private cars, while improvements in engine efficiency and aerodynamics may encourage the development of larger and more powerful cars, rather than more efficient cars. Moreover, even when energy and fuel cost savings are achieved, the re-spending of those cost savings on other goods and services may contribute to offsetting increases in energy consumption elsewhere in the economy. Similar processes are at work within freight transport, where efficiency improvements may lead to more goods being moved over greater distances, as well as encouraging increased consumption of different types of goods, all of which will have consequences for economy-wide energy consumption.

This project will explore the nature and magnitude of these rebound effects for UK road passenger and freight transport and assess their policy implications. The primary method will be the econometric analysis of aggregate time-series data on UK transport activity, using a variety of specifications and measures, combined with parallel analysis of UK household expenditure and vehicle performance data.

Further resources on Rebound Effects

Project Documents

Rebound effects in UK transport project outline (698 KB - pdf)

Project publications

Books and book chapters