Revolution or Evolution ? Europe’s pathways towards electromobility

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2017)


Recent scandals have revealed how the European car industry still struggles with environmental regulation and increasing global competition. This presentation is based on the recently published doctoral study and analyses how European public policy – in particular environmental regulation – stirred a rupture in the EU car industry’s seemingly ‘locked-in’ path of combustion-based automobility. An in-depth qualitative study shows how the first legally binding Co2 emission standards (2009) empowered other actors in the sector – the public, non-governmental observers, consumer associations and European political decision makers – to critically observe cars’ environmental performance. A comparison of electromobility-based trials across Europe in the following years shows how, partly in reaction to this rising pressure, the shift to electric (shared) solutions has been accelerating. These years of rupture (2008-2011) produced a setting after which two pathways seem possible: an ‘evolutionary’ path – in which more and more cars will drive electrically, or a ‘revolutionary’ path, in which electrification goes beyond powertrains and the dominant paradigm of automobility will be replaced by shared, connected solutions. If there will be one dominant pathway and which one will persist depends not only on strategic choices by manufacturers, but – going beyond the classic Gerpisian approach – more and more on public policies that impact these choices, and the role of automobility in consumers’ day to day mobility.

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