The automobile logic of policymakers hinders roll-out of LEVs

The Dutch mobility system is in transition. Because of the need for low-carbon transportation modes, various new vehicle types are being developed. These new vehicle types are also developed in the form of light and electric-powered vehicles (LEVs).

The current regulation system around the admission of these new vehicle types is delegated by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water management to independent agencies. These agencies primarily focus on safety, whereas other actors, like the ministry, innovators or companies, might strive for different or more values like sustainability, livability, or economic benefits.

Research by Wouter Slob (student at the University of Utrecht) uses the concepts of institutional logic to capture the various values of actors involved in the development and implementation of LEVs in the Dutch mobility sector. By means of qualitative research, Wouter conducted interviews with these actors, which resulted in the distinction of three institutional logic types: the automobile logic, the society logic, and the regulation logic. 

In the automobile logic people are used to car-driving which hinders LEV implementation. The main focus of policy is aimed at car manufactures and the fuel industry. LEV’s are often labeled as unsafe due to outdated rules and regulations and the infrastructural system is built around car-use with little room for LEV’s. Regulation authorities have little attention for LEV’s as a solution to social goals (e.g. inclusivity, less congestion, livable streets), besides sustainability. Implementation of LEV’s is hindered due to unclear roles and poor communication between the Ministry and RDW.

The research describes how the infrastructure and regulation mechanisms are influenced by the car-dependent automobile logic, and how this makes it difficult for LEV’s to substitute the car. It is observed that actors aiming at the implementation of LEV’s have a variety of social values like safety, liveability, and sustainability institutionalized in the society logic. The regulation logic has to balance between, on the one hand, secure the safety and performance of the current infrastructure system, but on the other hand transition in line with the call for urgency towards more holistic views on mobility. The holistic view of the society logic creates tensions with both the automobile logic with its economic focus and the regulation logic with its primary focus on safety. 

The current infrastructural system and urban planning is mainly organized around the use of cars. The transition towards a more sustainable mobility system is also mainly directed towards the replacement of fossil fuel car by electric cars. However, with the development of many other types of LEV’s, it becomes clear that the infrastructural system cannot support all these different types of vehicles. Formerly, in the Netherlands, the main roads were used for cars, and bikes used the cycling lanes. Currently, there is a debate on which lanes LEV’s should use. 

These insights into the Dutch mobility system and the actors and values can be used by policymakers to support them to stimulate the development of solutions to various societal problems in the mobility sector, with a focus on LEVs. 

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