25.11.2010, Johan Schot

The future of electric mobility

Is there a future for the electric vehicle? A simple yes or no will not do, as became clear during the International Electric Car Conference held In Groningen November 23-24. In the concluding session organized by the electric mobility journalist Joris Luyendijk a prize for the best bachelor or master e-car thesis was awarded by H.H. Prince Maurits van Oranje, chairman of the Formule-E team.

Whether the electric vehicle will hit the road depends on a wide range of related factors, among others the successful development of the electric vehicle niche; the diminishing belief in the future of the current gasoline car, and the way electric drive picks up new trends such as sustainable development, adventure seeking, the love for new gadgets and the consumer wish to develop varied and individual mobility patterns. It is important too, whether electric driving will be incorporated into new mobility concepts on offer by companies which will bridge the current gap between public and private transport.

We live a transition to a new mobility system. It will happen the coming decades. Yet it is unclear whether electric vehicles are part of it? Electric vehicles were popular in the 1890s, 1970s and 1990s. Three times, they disappeared from the public gaze. They became an elusive dream. Yet they are fashionable again. One wonders whether the earlier periods should be seen as part of the preparatory and learning phase which is typical for any transition. Or should we see them as hypes?

The jury is still out, but it is clear that the current popularity of electric vehicles builds on earlier waves, and shows new and promising departures. This time a strong network is in place between governments, big carmakers, new companies, and knowledge institutions, cities that want to become green, social movements, consumers and citizens. There is a new sense of urgency, while the fun factor plays its role too. We want to drive electric because we like it, not because we feel guilty driving a gasoline car. . In any case, as earlier experiences have shown, a transition to electric drive will not happen unless users and consumers develop a desire and longing to participate in it..

Read more in Dutch at http://www.sustainabilitytransitions.com/nl/blog/2010/11/24/promoot-de-elektrische-auto-niet-als-alternatief-voor-de-bestaande-auto.

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