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JRC report assesses R&I in low-emission alternative energy for transport (ALT) in Europe; €2.3B spent from 2007-2020

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center recently published a report analyzing research and innovation (R&I) in low-emission alternative energy for transport in Europe. The analysis focuses on selected EU-funded projects from TRIMIS with end dates from 2019 onwards.

The Transport Research and Innovation Monitoring and Information System (TRIMIS) is the analytical support tool for the establishment and implementation of the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA), and is the European Commission’s (EC’s) instrument for mapping transport technology trends and research and innovation capacities.

Seven STRIA roadmaps have been developed covering various thematic areas:

  • Connected and automated transport (CAT);
  • Transport electrification (ELT);
  • Vehicle design and manufacturing (VDM);
  • Low-emission alternative energy for transport (ALT);
  • Network and traffic management systems (NTM);
  • Smart mobility and services (SMO); and
  • Transport infrastructure (INF).

The STRIA roadmap for low-emission alternative energy for transport (ALT) focuses on renewable fuels production, alternative fuel infrastructures as well as the impact on transport systems and services of these technologies for road, rail, waterborne transport and aviation. Electricity is covered separately in the Transport electrification (ELT) roadmap.

About €2.3 billion has been invested in research and innovation (R&I) for low-emission alternative energy for transport (ALT), focusing on tank-to-wheel emissions and therefore excluding energy and fuel production, between 2007 and 2020. Road transport has received more funding than any other transport mode.


Top 15 technologies for the ALT roadmap. Bars not in scale. LNG: Liquefied natural gas; AF: Alternative Fuel; LNG: Compressed natural gas; FT: Fischer-Tropsch). Brown branches: road transport; blue branches: aviation; green branches: waterborne transport; dark yellow: multimodal transport. Source: JRC.

Main findings of the report include:

  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) refueling stations (25 projects and €380.8 million) followed by biofuels for road transport (31 projects and €236.9 million) and alternative aviation fuels (10 projects and €373 million) are among the researched technologies with the highest investments. This specifically involves tank-to-wheel energy and emissions (i.e. the analysis excludes well-to-tank).

  • Hydrogen receives the largest share, with 67 projects and the total project value exceeding €1.2 billion. Methane-based fuels (e.g. compressed natural gas (CNG), LNG) receive the second greatest attention concerning the number of projects (60) and the level of funding (€944 million), while there are only seven research projects still ongoing relating to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

  • Alcohols, esters and ethers come in third place in terms of number of projects (31 projects) and funding received (€241 million). They can reduce carbon emissions and can be blended with fossil fuels (up to certain limits) for use in conventional engines with little modification required. Many of the reviewed projects have been researching production methods of second-generation biofuels (or advanced biofuels) which are manufactured from non-food related biomass. Only one project researched third-generation biofuels’ production, which means electrofuels might be scaled up faster than third-generation biofuels.

  • Research on Synthetic Paraffinic and Aromatic fuels (SPF) also benefit from European funding with €305 million through 35 projects. As it is a relatively new area of research, most of the research focuses on novel production processes and evaluation of the commercial viability of these fuels. Moreover, many projects investigate the potential use of waste as feedstock. SPF are mostly investigated in the context of the aviation sector, with some research conducted within the heavy-duty road vehicle market. Research into SPF is still in its early stages, so most of the projects investigate technologies at low technology readiness levels (TRL 1-5).

  • New technologies and changes need time, therefore transition periods are very important along with proper use of the various alternative fuels available.

  • The fuels with the highest economic potential are already on the market (e.g. methane-based fuels and LPG), but they have a limited overall environmental advantage over conventional fuels (gasoline and diesel). On the other hand, renewable fuels with a higher potential to decarbonization are are either not available in sufficient quantities (e.g. low indirect land-use change risk conventional biofuels) or still not commercially viable (e.g. Advanced biofuels, hydrogen and synthetic paraffinic fuels), and there is not enough infrastructure for their deployment across Europe.

  • Alternative fuel policies should take into account the current state of the art of low-emission alternative energy for transport. They should evaluate all potential impacts to set realistic targets that ensure the decarbonization of the transport sector at the highest possible speed to achieve the EU’s climate objectives. The Horizon Europe (2021-2027) research and innovation funding programme will promote forward looking technologies and avoid lock-in into fossil infrastructures and technologies.


  • Ortega Hortelano, A., Stepniak, M., Gkoumas, K., Marques Dos Santos, F., Tsakalidis, A., Grosso, M. and Pekar, F. (2021) “Research and innovation in low-emission alternative energy for transport in Europe,” EUR 30666 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, ISBN 978-92-76-34253-3, doi: 10.2760/813147, JRC124695.


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