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The death of a transport regime? The future of electric bicycles and transportation pathways for sustainable mobility in China


  • Lin, Xiao
  • Wells, Peter
  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.


This paper has an empirical and theoretical focus: to empirically assess electric bicycle development in China, and to theoretically test and apply the “Multi-Level Perspective” on transitions and innovation. We examine the electric bicycle (e-bike) sector in China to understand the future prospects for urban mobility and the interaction of e-bikes as a form of vernacular technology within the existing transport regime. For this purpose, we address the following questions: 1) What factors will influence the future adoption of e-bikes? 2) How are alternative travel modes evaluated against e-bikes? 3) Will e-bikes become a popular sustainable mobility mode in the future or only an intermediary mode to cars? To provide answers, we conducted a survey in Nanjing city in order to assess the attitude of e-bike users, and other mode users (e.g. pedestrians; bicycle users). We then analyse responses from this survey through the lens of sociotechnical transitions theory, notably the “Multi-Level Perspective” notions of niches, regimes, and landscape. The paper explores the influential factors underpinning future e-bike adoption and the decision-making calculus behind alternative mode choices. Generalised Linear Models are used to investigate the factors influencing future e-bike adoption and alternative mode choices based on the survey data. We conclude that e-bikes are an intermediary mode on Nanjing's motorisation pathway, and that they therefore may eventually reflect a dying regime.

Suggested Citation

  • Lin, Xiao & Wells, Peter & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2018. "The death of a transport regime? The future of electric bicycles and transportation pathways for sustainable mobility in China," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 255-267.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:tefoso:v:132:y:2018:i:c:p:255-267
    DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2018.02.008

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Abrahamse, Wokje & Zhang, Long & Ren, Jingzheng, 2019. "Pleasure or profit? Surveying the purchasing intentions of potential electric vehicle adopters in China," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 69-81.
    2. Vainio, Annukka & Varho, Vilja & Tapio, Petri & Pulkka, Anna & Paloniemi, Riikka, 2019. "Citizens’ images of a sustainable energy transition," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 606-616.
    3. Mulrow, John & Derrible, Sybil & Samaras, Constantine, 2019. "Sociotechnical convex hulls and the evolution of transportation activity: A method and application to US travel survey data," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 149(C).
    4. Hung, Nguyen Ba & Lim, Ocktaeck, 2020. "A review of history, development, design and research of electric bicycles," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 260(C).
    5. Wang, I. Kim & Seidle, Russell, 2020. "Ambition in innovation: Vicarious learning in the nascent electric scooter market in Taiwan," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    6. Haipeng Shao & Jiangping Wang & Yin Wang & Sitian Chen, 2018. "Electric Bicycle Lane-Changing Behavior under Strategy Games," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(9), pages 1-12, August.


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