Intertwined and interlocking policies for the development of electromobility. How are Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris and Stuttgart implementing the transition?

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2021)


Since 2009, the European Union has imposed standard emission rates on car manufacturers that decrease over time in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. This is a turning point forcing manufacturers to modify their products. However, the so-called dieselgate affair has highlighted the difficulty of some manufacturers to pursue these objectives. Although the European Union has not taken direct action against the manufacturers in question, its initiative to limit emissions by homogenizing European standards has certainly contributed to an interest in the calculation methods used to test vehicles put on the market and thus to the discovery of the deception, reinforcing even more the interest in electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, the growth of electric and hybrid vehicles is slowly taking place before the pandemic in 2020. These vehicles represent about 2% of the new vehicle market in 2019 and are almost non-existent on the second-hand market. Many obstacles have been identified, from vehicle range, price, battery ownership, to the difficulty for users to find easily accessible and fast charging points, especially in urban areas where residents do not have a private parking space. To encourage the development of this market, various public policies have emerged at national, European, regional and municipal levels. Each actor proposes public policies corresponding to its competences, its political orientations, and the means at its disposal. This may take the form of subsidies for the purchase of a vehicle, a penalty on polluting vehicles, direct or indirect investment in charging infrastructure, market constraints, and/or incentives for the use of electric vehicles for individuals and companies. Thus, in this intertwined set of initiatives at all scales, a central question emerges: which actors influence the development of electromobility? And how can we measure it?

In order to answer this question we conducted a comparative research project during 2018 within the framework of the Toyota Chair of the Fondation France-Japon de l'EHESS. This work was intended to provide an explanation to the following issue: can public policies influence the emergence of automotive electromobility and by what means? Many authors have shown that the development of electromobility was singularly dependent on public action. The instability of sales and the relative weakness of this market in the early 2010s led public authorities to intervene in order to support it. However, the solutions implemented in each country and each metropolis are different and must be studied to understand the consequences.

This communication aims to show the different actions carried out by local and national governments for the development of electromobility based on 4 examples: Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris and Stuttgart. In these cities, local actors are facing singular contexts, but also injunctions coming from their central government and from the European Union. Local governments must adapt to national and European policies according to the objectives they set. The research in these four cities shows that electromobility appears to be an instrument of ecological transition that conflicts with the promotion of urban policies that are generally unfavorable to the car.
The development of electromobility remains highly dependent on strategies for the deployment of public charging infrastructure. The local authorities in these four cities propose fundamentally different approaches, particularly in the realization of public-private partnerships. This results in a clear difference in charging infrastructure deployment and policy instruments to support electric vehicle sales and driving. This difference is not only the result of local contexts, but also and above all, of political strategies.
The main objective of this paper will be to highlight the intertwining of local, national and European policies, as well as the importance of local strategies in the development of electromobility.

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