Approaching e-mobilty holistically – Breaking the petrol lock-in

Plagiarism is out – or completely en vogue? That depends on the point of view. Anyway, we definitely don´t want to conceal that this article bases upon a very clever blog post from Marius Brand, a researcher at Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart. As we are a close partner of Fraunhofer IAO since we have won the “Elektromobile Stadt der Zukunft”-award we are sure that he doesn´t mind.

In the context of the German „Energiewende“, he introduces the term “carbon lock-in”. According to Wikipedia lock-in means that a particular technology or product is dominant, not because its inherent cost is low or superior performance, but because it enjoys the benefits of increasing returns to scale. As a result, decision makers are greatly influenced by the dominance of a product rather than by their preferences for its inherent properties. In deciding about technologies or products decision-makers can become committed to the project before the formal decision to build was taken. The formation of commitment is not necessarily bad, but when commitment turns into lock-in, it has by definition a negative influence on the project performance.

Coal versus green energy – the carbon lock-in

In Brand´s opinion the German energy market is “locked” because the investments for the (worse but established) alternative have already been made and cannot be pulled back. This is the case for the German grid with its structure of power plants that base upon fossils. He calls that phenomenon “carbon lock-in”. As nuclear power plants – where billions have been spent in the past – also play an important role in the “old” German grid there might also be a nuclear lock-in.


Some lock-ins are hard to overcome

Refueling or charging – the petrol lock-in

Considering mobility the situation is quite similar. There is also a massive lock-in because of the well established system around the combustion engine. This system does not only consist of the cars but also of the petrol stations and the whole logistics that are connected to them. The habits of the motorists that got used to this petrol-based system make the lock-in even more resilient.

To overcome the petrol lock-in it takes more than just building electric cars. This is just one of several important steps. The system “mobility” has to be viewed and revised holistically if we want e-mobility to become a success. That system includes the following elements: vehicles, energy carrier, ways and habits of use as well as charging and parking facilities.


Renewable energies are given a hard time

Solar charging stations are (a) key

Our solar charging station was developed to address several important aspects of that challenge: and two in particular. The charging station is the answer for the question of energy carriers. It generates solar power and uses only “green energy” from the grid. Obviously it is also the answer to the questions regarding charging and parking facilities. It was our goal to create an open and flexible solution that facilitates a huge number of charging standards and business models.

The highly intuitive user interface also plays an important role for us. It makes the use of the charging station very easy and also enjoyable for the motorists. Thereby we want to encourage the motorists to use the offerings regarding edutainment and interaction. That makes it easier for people to be open for new mobility solutions and to form new habits. By integrating modern communications technologies we want to overcome the petrol lock-in, to meet peoples’ demands and to build a bridge that makes it convenient for them to make the step towards an e-mobile future.

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