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SA vehicle use facts

There are 1.2 million vehicles on the road in South Australia; about 80% are passenger vehicles, 14% are light commercial vehicles and the remainder are heavy vehicles.

Each year, these vehicles consume approximately 2.3 billion litres of fossil fuels, generate around 6.3 million tonnes - or approximately 19% - of South Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, and the bulk of the state's typical air quality impact.

Cars and motorbikes are responsible for the majority of emissions from transport (48%), followed by trucks and buses (25%), light commercial vehicles such as vans and utilities (14%) and rail, air and sea (13%).

South Australia's Transport Emissions by Sector 2010-11

Source: SA Transport Facts 2013

SATF transport emissions diagram

Vehicles are the dominant transport mode in South Australia 

Since 2000-01, the South Australian road vehicle fleet has increased by 216 000 vehicles or 20.6% and annual CO2-e emissions have grown by nearly 125 000 tonnes or 2.1%. 

Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, distance travelled by all road vehicles in South Australia increased by 294 million kilometres, or 1.9%, to 16 billion kilometres.

The number of 'passenger kilometres' travelled by motorcycles and buses increased by 4.1% and 10.6% respectively in 2010-11, and passenger cars decreased slightly to 0.5%.

In 2010-11, the road sector constituted 84.9% of South Australia’s domestic passenger task (passenger kilometres). This was followed by Air (13.4%) and Rail (1.7%). 

South Australia's Passenger Task (kilometre s ) to 2010-11

  Source: SA Transport Facts 2013

SATF passenger task 

In 2010-11, the proportion of kilometres travelled by road passenger vehicles was represented by: 

  • passenger cars: 72.4% 
  • buses: 6.2%
  • motorcycles: 0.5%   

The total number of vehicles registered in South Australia has been increasing by 2% per year. This is only partly attributed to population increase, as the number of vehicles in the State has also grown per person. 

In South Australia, the number of vehicles per 1 000 persons increased by approximately 5%, from 732 to 775 vehicles between 2011 and 2012. The majority of this rise was attributed to an increase in the passenger vehicle segment, which rose from 586 to 608 vehicles.

We also have an aging vehicle fleet when compared to other states and the Australian average, with an age of 11.1 yrs (2012), compared with the Australian average of 9.8 years. This means we have been slower to adopt newer, cleaner vehicle technologies.


Following business as usual trends, annual greenhouse gas emissions from South Australian road transport are expected to grow by 2.35% or 142 000 tonnes by 2020-21.

New motor vehicle sales in South Australia are projected to rise by 23.5% to 86 000 vehicles per year to 2020-21, resulting in a growth by 202 000 vehicles to 1.46 million vehicles.

Business as Usual (BAU) projections to 2020 suggest that more sustainable fuel types are not anticipated to be significant; petrol powered vehicles are expected to constitute 71.4% of the Australian road fleet, followed by diesel at 21.0% and LPG at 6.8%.

South Australia’s Low Emission Vehicle Strategy aims to curb the impact of vehicle use by promoting more sustainable alternatives within our community.


South Australian Transport Facts 2013

State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2010-11 

Australian Bureau of Statistics - 2012 Motor Vehicle census.