"From the technical to the political": politicization of the electric vehicle in France

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Berlin (2010)


voiture électrique


Today all analysts agree that the auto industry is experiencing a major crisis which raises the problem of its very sustainability. According to Michel Freyssennet and his “Second automobile Revolution” theory (Freyssennet, 2009), the majority of European carmakers have taken stock of this situation and committed themselves to the development of new technologies. As a consequence of fall in sales and constructions of the environmental “risks” and the geopolitics related to oil, carmakers have develop new models that consume less fuel and are more respectful of the environment. Many factors explain this situation: first of all, the automobile industry is suffering from structural problems linked to its development. The current economic crisis has therefore brought forward pre-existing latent problems. As a result, a phase of important recession occurred from which answers to the following problems had to be found:
-       the rise of oil prices,
-       the fight against global warming,
-       the multiplication of European standards and constraints on car users,
-       the technological head-start of the BRICs.
Moreover, this situation is also related to more general problems of economic crisis and the massive intervention of States in industry it has generated. Faces with a catastrophic situation, carmakers asked for State financial support in order to protect their industry. Certain governments, like those of the United-States, France or Germany, created rescue plans to assist the auto industry. In compensation for these aids, carmakers promised to invest in clean technologies and to support production at national level, mainly to support employment. Thus, the year 2009 may be considered as that of the “great return” of public authorities in the automobile system and in the traditional triptych: State, carmaker, consumer (Jullien, 2010). This intrusion, unanimously approved, facilitated and accelerated the transition towards a new phase of development for this industry.


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