Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Research led by

Other energy research themes



Working across the ECI and TSU, research under this theme focuses on energy demand reduction, resource efficiency improvements, behavioural change and energy policy in a transport context. The focus is on passenger and freight transport, as well as consumers and corporate actors. Much of the work considers the historical forces that shape transport energy use, and a key objective is to generate knowledge that is relevant to policy makers and other stakeholders. Research under this theme is informed by theories from economics, environmental science, engineering and innovation studies. The quantitative methods that are used include travel demand forecasting, life cycle analysis and system modelling tools. Qualitative methods and futures methods, including back-casting and other scenario methods, are also applied.

The research in this theme aims to:

  • Explore the nexus of transport activity, the vehicle market and household vehicle choices;
  • Examine the emergence, diffusion and up-scaling of technological and socio-cultural innovations that are expected to reduce energy consumption or improve energy efficiency in transport;
  • Examine success factors in promoting active mobility to improve public health and mitigate carbon emissions from personal transport;
  • Explore different long-term futures for low-carbon and resilient transport systems;
  • Explain the economic incentives for transport policy and produce alternative methodologies for improved decision-making with respect to policy and planning; and
  • Make a practical contribution to policy making in the transport and energy domains.

In geographical terms much research under this theme is focused on the national (UK) scale, the level of the European Union and the emerging economies, such as China and South Korea.

Core strands of work

  • Fuel economy of passenger and freight vehicles in the spatial economy: Work focuses on the long-debated relationships of gasoline demand with household incomes, vehicle demand (sales) and economic growth in the context of sustainability. This includes consideration of rebound effects and the decoupling of transport growth from economic growth.
  • Analysis of electric vehicles and transport policy and planning: Research seeks to develop new approaches for understanding innovation adoption processes and alternative business models through the modelling of the car market.
  • Economics of innovation of alternative energy technologies: This work includes analysis of trends using patent information and assessing the barriers to innovation. Analysis relies on qualitative approaches, socio-technical approaches and methods from complexity science.
  • Visioning and forecasting low-carbon transport systems: This research asks questions about what triggers radical transformations of the transport system and the role of disruptive technologies and policy packaging in such transitions.

Current projects

The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions
  • Funding: EPSRC/ESRC
  • 2018 - 2023
  • Programme Lead: Professor Nick Eyre

The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions

A new research centre established in 2018 with a vision to make the UK a leader in understanding the changes in energy demand needed for the transition to a secure and affordable, low carbon energy system.

  • Funding: EPSRC
  • 2002-2019
  • Programme Lead: Dr Christian Brand

UK Energy Research Centre Decision Making Programme

ECI lead a theme in the third phase of the UKERC looking at challenges in energy decision making, including governance, actor decision making and systemic interactions. The demand for energy is the driver of the whole energy system, influencing not only the total amount of energy used, but also the location, type of fuel and characteristics of the end use technology. Energy systems face increasing pressures from many directions, most notably for a rapid transition to a secure, low carbon energy system. Understanding the role of energy demand in these changes is therefore an increasing priority. ECI lead, and are involved in, a number of sub-projects within the UKERC Decision Making theme.

Recent Projects

PASTA project
  • Funding: EU FP7
  • 2013-2017
  • Co-I: Dr Christian Brand

Physical activity through sustainable transport approaches (PASTA)

An EU-funded project to connect transport and health research and practice by promoting active mobility (i.e. walking and cycling, including in combination with public transport use) in cities as an innovative way of integrating physical activity into our everyday lives.

iConnect - On your bike!

The iConnect (Impact of COnstructing Non-motorised Networks and Evaluating Changes in Travel) study aimed to measure and evaluate the changes in travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to Sustrans' Connect2 project, which won the public vote in the Big Lottery Fund’s People’s £50 Million contest.

UKERC project
  • Funding: NERC
  • 2009-2014
  • ECI Leads: Dr Nick Eyre and Dr Christian Brand

UKERC Phase 2: Energy Demand Theme

Focused on exploring how socio-economic and technical change affect transport energy demand and technology diffusion in the UK, and to apply this to the need for more radical change to respond to climate and energy security challenges.

  • Funding: EPSRC
  • 2002-2015
  • Co-I: Dr Nick Eyre; Led by Professor Jim Hall

UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium: Long term dynamics of interdependent infrastructure systems.

The ITRC informs the analysis, planning and design of national infrastructure, including transport, through the development and demonstration of new decision support tools, and working with partners in government and industry.

  • Funding: TSB
  • 2014
  • Co-I: Dr Christian Brand

Oxford Transport Laboratory (MobOx)

Feasibility Study (Phase 1) focusing on (a) minimising the impact of the closure of the city centre Westgate Car park, with loss of 800 car parking spaces, on the rest of the transport system, and (b) integrating transport systems and infrastructure, to improve user experience and increase economic activity within the Oxford ring road.

Projects Archive

Full list of archived energy projects.