Environmental sustainability in cargo and passenger carriage can currently be measured respectively using EcoTransIT and Ecopassenger, two applications that can be used to calculate energy consumption and emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, according to how cargo and passengers are transported (by air, train, ship or car).

The procedure at the basis of EcoTransIt was developed by the German Institute for Research on Energy and the Environment (IFEU - Institut für Energie und Umweltforschung) in Heidelberg, Rail Management Consultants GmbH (RMCon) and IVE mbh as part of a research project deriving from an initiative by a number of European Rail Carriers including Trenitalia. With regard to EcoPassenger, the relative system of calculation was developed by the Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC), verified by the Institute for Research on Energy and the Environment in Heidelberg (Germany) and approved by the European Environmental Agency and the European Commission. This method was also verified by “Ente per le Nuove tecnologie, l’Energia e l’Ambiente” (ENEA – Organisation for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment) in Italy.

The parameters provided by this model regard consumption/emissions of: 

  • Energy - this includes direct energy consumption by a vehicle and the production and distribution processes entailed
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • CO2 - equivalent (valid only for EconTransIT)
  • Nitrogen Oxide
  • Non-methane Hydrocarbons
  • Overall Powder Emissions
  • Sulphur Dioxide (valid only for EconTransIT)

These parameters are calculated per passenger through Ecopassenger, whereas they are calculated according to ton of cargo or by TEU through EcoTransIT. 

Both these software programmes are based on a databank comprising specific values for each country, such as infrastructure, orographic set-up and domestic energy mix, as well as values common to all countries such as emissions and energy consumption in various models of lorries, trains, ships and aircraft.

How EcoTransIT works

In view of the model’s extreme complexity, this application ensures highly-customised questions to allow definition of the following:

  • nature of cargo: heavy or light, liquids or solids, unpackaged or in containers, etc.;
  • means of transport: lorries, trains, aircraft, ships or river barges;
  • means of transport: load size/capacity for each vehicle (e.g. 20-ton lorry, 1,000-ton train or specific aircraft model);
  • category of emissions: standard for emissions from specific lorry/ship/aircraft (e.g. Euro standard between 1 and 5 for road vehicles);
  • load factor and empty trip factor: percentage use with respect to load factor and trip factor when empty (e.g. the average load factor of lorries with light cargo is 30% lower on average and 10% of light cargo trucks  return empty).


Once the destination and departure have been set, the model uses the worldwide database of roads and motorways, railway networks, ports, airports and rivers.
There is generally a higher concentration of roads than railway lines or rivers. All infrastructural networks are connected and the programme can change from one network to another any time it is needed to transport cargo from the departure to the destination.

How Ecopassenger works

The first step in applying this model entails choosing the relative departure and destination. Using this information, the model establishes the shortest route for each means of transport, combining various means if necessary (e.g. taxi to/from the airport).

Train journeys are calculated according to train timetables in force in various countries and regularly updated by infrastructure managers, whereas flights are calculated according to the distance between the airports as the crow flies within a range of 250 km as the crow flies with respect to departure and arrival.

Finally, car journeys are calculated according to the network of roads and motorways in each country using navigation software similar to those available on the market.
Once the journey has been established, energy consumption and emissions into the atmosphere for each of the three means of transport are calculated. Energy consumption and specific emissions from rail carriage are differentiated according to service type (High Speed, Intercity or Regional) and engine type (electric or Diesel). Prompt calculations are made for countries that apply specific emission factors for each service and engine type, otherwise European averages are used.

Energy consumption and specific emissions for transport by road vary considerably according to the category of vehicles taken into account (compact, medium and luxury), type of fuel used (petrol, diesel, LPG), emission standard (Euro 1 to 5) and type of journey involved (motorways, suburban and urban roads). There is no specific information for this means of transport in various countries, therefore the average car pool in Europe is used as a reference.

Energy consumption and specific emissions for air travel are calculated according to consumption/emissions for the most popular aircraft used on European flight routes (Airbus 320 and Boeing 737). Furthermore, this model can also take into account (using the RFI-Radiative Forcing Index application) the fact that a number of pollutants emitted at high altitude have a higher climate-changing effect than those emitted on the ground.