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Flexible transition strategies towards future well-to-wheel chains: an evolutionary modelling approach


  • Malte Schwoon

    () (Statkraft, Duesseldorf)

  • Floortje Alkemade
  • Koen Frenken
  • Marko P. Hekkert


Well to wheel (WTW) analyses mainly focus on alternative road fuel/vehicle systems that are very different from the current crude oil based individual transport system. A large share of WTW chains evaluated require changes in the energy source, new fuel production facilities, different fuel distribution systems and also modifications of the vehicles. An immediate transition to such a new system would be an unprecedented technological discontinuity. Historical examples of successful technological changes are characterized by stepwise transitions of subsystems. In this paper, we present a model that identifies likely sequences of stepwise transitions in analogy to the fitness landscape model in evolutionary biology. Applying this methodology allows for a dynamic interpretation of otherwise static WTW information. We show that sequences of transitions are path dependent, so that current decisions predetermine the future WTW system. We, therefore, argue that flexible initial transition steps that allow for different transition paths later on are favorable. Results suggest that improvements of vehicle technologies are most flexible if decision makers focus on decreasing WTW energy requirements. A full transition to diesel, as a first step, is advisable if WTW greenhouse gases should be reduced.

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  • Malte Schwoon & Floortje Alkemade & Koen Frenken & Marko P. Hekkert, 2006. "Flexible transition strategies towards future well-to-wheel chains: an evolutionary modelling approach," Working Papers FNU-114, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Aug 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:sgc:wpaper:114

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hekkert, Marko P. & Hendriks, Franka H. J. F. & Faaij, Andre P. C. & Neelis, Maarten L., 2005. "Natural gas as an alternative to crude oil in automotive fuel chains well-to-wheel analysis and transition strategy development," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 579-594, March.
    2. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-337, May.
    3. Ogden, Joan M. & Williams, Robert H. & Larson, Eric D., 2004. "Societal lifecycle costs of cars with alternative fuels/engines," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 7-27, January.
    4. Levinthal, Daniel A, 1998. "The Slow Pace of Rapid Technological Change: Gradualism and Punctuation in Technological Change," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 217-247, June.
    5. Dosi, Giovanni, 1993. "Technological paradigms and technological trajectories : A suggested interpretation of the determinants and directions of technical change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 102-103, April.
    6. Koen Frenken & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "The early development of the steam engine: an evolutionary interpretation using complexity theory," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(2), pages 419-450, April.
    7. Bentley, R. W., 2002. "Global oil & gas depletion: an overview," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 189-205, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Albert Faber & Koen Frenken, 2008. "Models in evolutionary economics and environmental policy: Towards an evolutionary environmental economics," Innovation Studies Utrecht (ISU) working paper series 08-15, Utrecht University, Department of Innovation Studies, revised Apr 2008.

    More about this item


    Alternative fuels; Hydrogen; Lock-in; Fitness-landscape;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • L92 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Railroads and Other Surface Transportation
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources

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