Technology transition pathways towards electric mobility: the reconfiguration of stakeholder networks

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


Constructive Technology Assessment, Electric Mobility, Electric Vehicle


The technology transition towards electric mobility as battery electric (BEV) or fuel cell based vehicles (FCEV) could help decoupling transport growth from negative environmental impacts, improve fuel efficiency and deal with the increasing demand for individual mobility in a more sustainable way. Large systems as the mobility sector form a complex, infrastructural, existing socio-technical system with different predominant regimes including individuals, companies, embedded rules, institutions and policy making.
The introduction of a new technology increases the complexity present in transport systems through an growing number of actors (newcomers, users in their active role, etc.) and the diversification of stakeholders (energy providers, new service providers, etc.) as Schwedes et al. (2012) point out. Their complex interactions require integrative policy-making in order to efficiently integrate this multitude of interests as described for some EU-countries in (Schippl and Puhe, 2011). Seven main factors, named as socio-technical dimensions, are crucial to understand potential implications occurring in this transition: technology, infrastructure, markets, sector policy, techno-scientific knowledge, industrial networks, and culture (Fournier, G. et al., 2012).
Transitions towards sustainability have some special characteristics. First, sustainability transitions are goal-oriented addressing persistent environmental problems (Geels, 2011: 25). Usually single actors have limited incentives to address such transitions. Second, most solutions in these transitions do not offer obvious user benefits, and often score lower on price/performance dimensions than established technologies. Further the transport system as a large socio-technical system is characterized by stability and lock-in where a swift towards a more sustainable transport system is hindered by sunk costs in technologies, skills and belief systems of dominant car manufacturers and oil companies, etc. (Rothaermel, 2001) (Verbong and Geels 2010).
Technology transitions cause replacements or reconfigurations of embedded socio-technical practices and regimes and thus actor interaction and relation might change and offer opportunities for new technologies (by creating new standards or dominant designs, changing regulations, infrastructure and user patterns). In this paper it is argued that two “extreme” types of transition pathways are imaginable for electric mobility: Firstly it would be a technology that is substituted by a new one but the users do actually not change their behaviour in the socio-technical regime. Travel patterns remain the same as before (e.g. trip purpose, origin and destination, modal choice etc.). There might be some minor changes needed in terms of refuelling routines. In the second case, new mobility patterns emerge which mean significant changes to trip purpose, origin and destination, modal choice and trip distribution. In the first case, EVs have to come close to the performance of conventionally vehicles; in the second case this is not necessary. This paper aims at illustrating how an integrative perspective can be applied to the debate. Different technical settings can be observed in recently presented and partly commercialized electrical vehicles (BEVs, FCEVs, hybrids). We will address the question whether there are reasons to anticipate that these different settings support different transition pathways of the user-fuel-infrastructure systems.

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