Accelerating technological change. Towards a more sustainable transport system

by A. van der Vooren

Institution: Universiteit Utrecht
Year: 2014
Record ID: 1260233
Full text PDF: http://dspace.library.uu.nl:8080/handle/1874/289998


This thesis provides insights into the mechanisms of technological change by capturing the complexity that characterises the current technological transition of the transport system into existing evolutionary models of technological change. The transition towards a more sustainable transport system requires technological change. Its realisation requires the production of new vehicle technologies by technology providers, the adoption of those technologies by consumers, and facilitating policy instruments. Technological change in the transport sector is not easy, as it is locked in into fossil-fuel-based internal combustion engine vehicles. Escaping this lock-in is difficult, because vehicle technologies are dependent on infrastructures, which are characterised by high switching costs and network externalities. Moreover, negative externalities inherent in environmental problems are insufficiently internalised in the costs of technologies, which is a disadvantage for the competitive position of more environmentally friendly technologies. In contrast with earlier studies this thesis explicitly addresses the infrastructure dependence of vehicle technologies. In addition the models cover the emergence of multiple new technologies; the compatibility between different old and/or new technological systems; the technologies that emerge at different moments in time; and the effects of significant incremental improvements in the existing technologies. The two main overall conclusions of this thesis have major implications for policymakers who intend to accelerate technological change towards a more sustainable transport system. First, it is concluded that the emergence of a large variety of radically new vehicle technologies that depend on a physical infrastructure may hamper the diffusion of any one of those radically new vehicle technologies. Second, incremental improvements in the environmental performance of the existing vehicle technology may hamper the diffusion of radically new technologies with a higher environmental performance potential. The first conclusion has two major implications for policymakers. First, policymakers need to support technology providers in the creation of a limited number of vehicle technologies, which preferably make use of similar infrastructures. Second, each of the created vehicle technologies needs sufficient support for infrastructure build-up to stimulate consumer adoption and generate the critical mass needed to replace the existing technology. Two critical implications for policymakers follow from the second conclusion as well. First, policymakers need to set ambitious long-term goals to keep the option of zero emission vehicle systems open. These long-term goals provide incentives for technology providers to invest in radical innovations as well as in incremental improvements in environmental performance of the existing technology. Second, in order to attract market demand policymakers need to provide an advantage for those radically new technologies with a large CO2 reduction potential…