Abstract for: Strategies for Transportation Electrification: Overcoming Thresholds and Overly Optimistic Forecasts

With increasingly volatile oil prices, unprecedented US dependence on imported petroleum, and growing environmental concerns, the creation of economically sustainable markets for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) is vital. However most efforts to supplant the current transportation system have failed or had limited success. The diffusion of AFVs is complex, being both enabled and constrained by powerful positive feedbacks arising from scale and scope economies, experience curves, network effects and complementary assets. While such feedbacks are sometimes discussed, dominant mental models among both policy makers and academics may underestimate the strength of these feedbacks and the fact that they also operate to advantage the current dominant technology. The result has been a series of overly-optimistic forecasts for the extent and speed of diffusion for AFVs and EDVs, and insufficient investment in standards and policies to help such vehicles over the tipping point to self-sustained adoption. We describe a model we have developed a suite of behavioral dynamic, spatially disaggregated models with a broad scope and its key actors. We demonstrate, through various thought experiments, that higher oil prices, while important in speeding EDV adoption, are less effective than many expect, due to a range of compensating feedbacks that enable internal combustion-gasoline technology to adapt.