Why should the EU implement electric vehicles?

08 May 2021
Electric Cars
Evidence-based policy
Science-policy interface

A new publication by MAGIC researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona questions the material coherence of electric vehicle justification narratives in the EU. Electric vehicles are a dominant policy solution in the EU. In policy documents, the transition to electric vehicles is justified through promises of economic, environmental, wellbeing and security benefits. However, the authors find that evidence supporting such claims remains uncertain.

Taking a stance that is grounded in complexity science, the authors introduce a hierarchical mapping of policy mechanisms, concerns and solutions – the elements making up policy narratives. Building on this mapping, they focus on questioning the solution-justification relationship for electric vehicles, by critically inspecting the material coherence between these justifications and the existing evidence. A targeted review shows how, for example, positive economic impacts largely depend on the location of battery and car manufacturing; or GHG emission reductions depend on promises of decarbonisation of the electricity sector, as well as on driving behaviours. The authors argue that innovations are not just material objects, and such evidence does not necessarily weaken the dominant policy solution, nor the socio-technical imaginary it is grounded in. By questioning the material coherence of EV justification narratives in the EU, this case study points to a discussion about the effects of dominant policy narratives on the generation of science, warning against policy-based evidence in the co-creation of socio-technical imaginaries.

Di Felice LJ, Renner A & Giampietro M 2021, 'Why should the EU implement electric vehicles? Viewing the relationship between evidence and dominant policy solutions through the lens of complexity', Environmental Science & Policy, vol. 123, pp 1-10,  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2021.05.002.