Preparing for takeoff : Analyzing the development of electric road systems from a business model perspective
Abstract: Electric road systems (ERS) are road transportation systems based on technologies that support electric power transfer from roads to vehicles in motion. Transition toward alternative technologies, such as ERS, is necessary in order to achieve the sustainability goals in road transportation. While several studies have emphasized that new business models are necessary in order to commercialize such technologies, they tend to neglect the fact thatmany of these technologies require socio-technical change, such as investments in alternative infrastructure.Hence, this thesis examines the relationship between business models and socio-technical change.The research was explorative and based on two case studies investigating the development of ERS: a longitudinal case study in Sweden and an in-depth case study in Los Angeles, USA. The findings suggest different roles that business models can have in different types of projects when preparing ERS for commercial takeoff: first, new business models were not part of the pilot projects which focused on radical innovation; second, business models were developed in demonstration projects with user interactions; and, third, business models were evaluated, and in this case rejected, in a deployment project aiming to transform the existing socio-technical system.Given these findings, this thesis argues that the business model concept could be used as a perspective from which to understand the evolutionary processes that take place during the early phases of transition, and that the challenges of commercializing and deploying systemic innovations, such as ERS, are more complex than often accounted for in the business model and sustainability transition literature.This thesis also discusses whether or not ERS is likely to take off. Thereby, this research nuances our view of predevelopment processes of a niche innovation before it has actually taken off and improves our understanding of what hinders and enables sustainable transitions.
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