Radical Innovation: Management and policy for electric and hybrid electric vehicle development
Doktorsavhandling, 2010

Technological change can be divided into two categories: in line with the mainstream trajectory or paradigm (continuous, incremental), or breaking with it (discontinuous, radical). This thesis aims to increase understanding of the latter type: paradigmatic shifts in technology. These shifts are meandering processes lasting years or even decades and posing a serious threat as well as an opportunity to the actors involved. The empirical case of this thesis is the automotive industry and its potential shift from internal combustion engine to electric propulsion. Vehicle electrification has been on the cards for over a century but apart from a small and growing market for hybrid electric vehicles in the past dozen years, the outcome of the process is still highly uncertain. Empirical data was collected at project, firm and national levels mostly through interviews. The studies focused particularly on Volvo Cars/Sweden and Toyota/Japan. This thesis discusses and elaborates on a new theoretical concept of ‘interparadigmatic hybrids’, whilst aiming to enhance understanding of the process that constitutes a paradigmatic shift in technology. Using this new concept, it is argued that policy has targeted full electrification in one go, incorporated into vehicles with fuel cells or large batteries. Any gradual shift via various hybrid electric vehicle solutions (which appears to be the (techno)logical process) has been largely ignored. Moreover, most innovative activities have taken place within firms. Toyota’s hybrid electric vehicle development and market introduction highlights the extreme challenge involved in this first move. For various reasons, in particular the scarcity of resources, it is argued that small automakers like Volvo Cars have little chance of benefitting from a similar type of first move; indeed, a fast-follower strategy seems more suitable. Large automakers like AB Volvo (one of the largest companies in the heavy commercial vehicle segment) have a better chance of benefitting from first-mover ambitions.




electric vehicle







Vasa 6
Opponent: Staffan Laestadius


Hans M Pohl

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Supply and Operations Management

The concept of interessement: The story of a power-split technology for hybrid electric vehicles

International Journal of Innovation Management,; Vol. 13(2009)p. 47-64

Artikel i övrig tidskrift

Radical innovation in a small firm – a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) development project at Volvo Cars

R and D Management,; Vol. 40(2010)p. 372-382

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Paradigmatic shifts in technology and its cousin, radical innovation, are the focus of this thesis. As a process, paradigmatic shifts are usually long-winded and anything but straightforward. Accordingly, the changes they bring come as a challenge to established industry. Various management and policy implications have been deduced by studying how automakers have addressed one such potential shift: the electrification of road transport as incorporated into battery, fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles. Data came mainly via interviews focusing on Volvo Cars/Sweden and Toyota/Japan. Electric propulsion and the internal combustion engine paradigm have been alternatives and, in 1997, the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid-electric vehicle. In 2010, various battery-dominated solutions suffuse the public debate, but large-scale market introduction of such plug-in vehicles is yet to happen. This thesis extends a new theoretical concept of the interparadigmatic hybrid, using it to explore the activities of managers and policymakers. The conclusions are that policy has mostly targeted full electrification in one go, without stimulating a gradual (techno-)logical development towards electrified vehicles. Moreover, most innovative activities have taken place within firms. Based on these findings, it is argued that small actors like the car makers in Sweden have limited opportunity to benefit from the kind of first move made by Toyota with its hybrid electric vehicle.


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Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 3130

Vasa 6

Opponent: Staffan Laestadius

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