January 22, 2010

Changing the Game in the U.S. Auto Sector: The Role of the Plug-In Vehicle Network


Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University


The potential of clean technology commercialization in the U.S. auto sector is not entirely dependent on the efficiency of the technology itself, but on the organizations that support the different technologies available. Recently, electric drive technologies – HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs, and FCEVs – have received widespread attention for their social, ecological, and market benefits. As of 2003, HEVs and FCEVs were largely favored over PHEVs and BEVs by policy and market actors. As of 2009, PHEVs and BEVs regained support by policy and market actors. This Ph.D. dissertation project evaluates the role that a new network of organizations (composed of entrepreneurial companies, utilities, research organizations, non-profit groups, and state agencies) has played in influencing the policy and market trajectory of plug-in vehicle technologies from 2003 to 2009. In this presentation, I map the structure, motivations, strategies, and inter-relationships of the plug-in vehicle network. I argue that this network is primarily responsible for both the continued advancement in plug-in vehicle technologies and for the diffusion of the institutions that support them.

Biographical Sketch

Shannon Arvizu examines the nexus of technology, social change, and sustainability.  As a sociologist and anthropologist, she brings attention to the cultural politics and network dynamics that influence clean tech deployment. She is also a consultant, speaker, and journalist in the clean transportation field. Learn more at www.misselectric.com.