The emergence of hybrid-electric cars : Innovation path creation through co-evolution of supply and demand

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1390
Journal / PublicationTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


Hybrid-electric vehicles have experienced a significant rate of growth in the last 10. years. This is remarkable, since the automotive sector is typically averse to the more radical technological change of engines. The internal combustion engine has been around for more than 100. years after all. In this paper we describe and explain the emergence of electric engines in the automobile market after 1990. We explicate the role of techno-economic mechanisms alongside social and regulatory mechanisms (including the social meaning of an engine). The co-evolutionary analysis is novel in the integrated conception of actor perspectives, feedback effects and competition between products. We find three sources of lock-in through path dependency: from demand, supply as well as the regulatory side. We conclude that automotive engines were significantly locked into a trajectory of internal combustion technology due to techno-economic mechanisms, which produced inertia despite social pressures. The creation of an alternative path, on the other hand, initially stalled. Various stakeholders were unsuccessful in marketing their electric or hybrid-electric vehicles in the 1990s, such as Peugeot/Citroen with various electric models, or Audi with their Duo in 1997. However, after 2000 we find that sustaining efforts of California's Air Resources Board and Toyota were triggering creation of a new innovation path of hybrid-electric engines. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Research Area(s)

  • Automobile market, Car engine, Co-evolution, Feedback mechanisms, Path creation, Technological competition