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Policy for the accelerated adoption of electric cars

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Transport electrification (ELT)
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Passenger transport



A preliminary study that focuses in particular on exploring policy for the accelerated adoption of electric cars in Norway and Sweden. Electric cars are one of the central vehicle technologies when it comes to the targets for a fossil-independent vehicle fleet that have been set by countries such as Sweden and Norway.

The overall purpose of the preliminary study has been to highlight what steers policy formulation in each country and how policy relates to research into and knowledge of the way green technology innovations are adopted. The aim is to pin down future knowledge and research needs regarding the accelerated adoption of electric cars specifically and green technology innovations in the transport field more generally. 


The preliminary study comprises one Swedish and one Norwegian sub-study of national transport and environmental policy with a bearing on the adoption of electric cars, plus R&D policy linked to this vehicle technology. The preliminary study is based on analysis of public documents, and in the Norwegian study also on analysis of previous studies and data produced at the Institute of Transport Economics (TØI).

The Swedish study has applied textual analysis to highlight perspectives and principles for policy formulation, as well as criteria for assessing and selecting priorities with a bearing on the question of accelerated electric car adoption. The Norwegian study has taken a historical and contextual perspective in highlighting how the Norwegian policy focus has taken shape and which contributors, networks and alliances have been central to the political process. Both these sub-studies have, in various ways, used and referred to international research and theorising on the adoption of green technology innovations in the analyses that have been conducted.


The sub-studies have led to the identification of three thematic areas for further research:

Multi- and cross-disciplinary research into the adoption of green technology innovations in vehicles and transport.

This theme is about incorporating adoption issues into the framework of research and innovation in the vehicle and transport field. Research initiatives and programme descriptions need to be based on the current status of international research and knowledge, and thus also be opened up to multi- and cross-disciplinary R&D. This is additionally important as a means of internationalising Norwegian and Swedish research in this field. When it comes to adoption, there is a need for knowledge concerning

a) different types of green technology innovations in the vehicle and transport field: incremental, radical, disruptive, substitutional

b) with a focus on the transport sector (and its associated sub-sectors) as a special case with its own specific mechanisms and logic 

c) with a focus on different social levels (from users to the many and various stakeholders in the sociotechnical system)

d) with a focus on impediments and barriers to and opportunities for adoption.

Knowledge-based policy research

This theme is related to the previous theme and is about policy formulation being driven in close conjunction with knowledge production concerning the adoption of green technology innovations in the vehicle and transport field. “Knowledge policies” is the term used for what this type of research is aiming for, and it is this that underpins IPCC’s development work on policy issues, for example. The theme involves investigating how the can-dimension (the knowledge base on adoption) and the should-dimension (what is desirable) may be integrated and balanced in the formulation of policy, in:

a) the drafting of principles and criteria for the choice of initiatives and steering instruments

b) the handling of conflicting objectives, policy dilemmas, solutions etc.

c) the transformation of targets into practical policy

d) the development of knowledge on existing assessment methods and the development of new ones to help decision-makers take into account climatic, environmental and economic considerations. The Norwegian sub-study points out several aspects of the adoption process that clarify the importance of developing knowledge on how best to communicate with the end users and with new user groups. Pressing questions are: How should the technology be communicated? How can myths that delay adoption be avoided? How can new customer groups be reached? How can the network of communication in the field be exploited? What communicative interventions are needed to ensure that good processes do not stall or begin to fail? In this area, resources such as comparative studies between countries may have considerable significance.

Policy as political process

This theme is about exploring the power and influence that different stakeholders exert over policy processes and outcomes. Key players include decision-makers, officials, experts, industry representatives, lobby groups and environmental organisations. This is a classic political science theme, but studies in the vehicle and transport field are few and far between. The policy direction indicated in the Swedish sub-study cannot, for example, be explained by focusing on knowledge issues in any objective sense. Instead there is a need to examine how power and influence and alliances between different stakeholders, decision-makers, officials and expert groups in a political-administrative arena develop, become institutionalised, take root, change, are challenged etc. over time. Different expert groups represent different knowledge bases/perspectives. With regard to expertise, it is the case that energy and climate issues exist in a multi- and cross-disciplinary knowledge arena, and a greater battle for influence over policy formulation between the various interests can be expected in the future. Through its focus on a political dimension, this theme forms an important complement to the theme of “knowledge-based policy research”. Based on the Norwegian sub-study, one can add the need to investigate the grounds for new types of alliances and win-win situations. How can processes be developed in which different players work towards shared objectives in a team? How can bottom-up processes and other interventions that generate acceptance of reform strategies be supported? 



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