A Better Place – just a tale to be told?

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The story of electric propulsion of cars is almost as old as the dominant design of cars itself. It is a story of many facets and aspects. Several attempts to launch and mass produce the concept have resulted in failure on what was to become a smashing success. The introduction of the concept has several times been beaten by either gas propelled engines or by the internal combustion engine, resulting in heavy global environmental impacts.

With the recent bankruptcy of the Danish company Better Place (a provider of switchable batteries, the next generation of electric cars and our automated Battery Switch Stations for Danish electric car owners), the industry and general push for green alternatives is jeopardized. Worst case scenario is that electrical car owners have no where to charge their cars, and no grid to rely on.

My question is this: With a number of green alternative propulsion solutions how can the industry in Denmark resurrect and prevail from the devastating blow of A Better Place’s bankruptcy and consequent failure to provide consumers with an electrical alternative to car propulsion? Which authentic strengths are absolutely necessary to define and emphasize in the industry of electric propulsion of cars, to make the brand about green alternatives stronger – and to avoid another bankruptcy?

CO2 output and the current issue of global warming portray a situation where consumption of fossil fuels has to come down. Thus, environmentally friendly alternatives are needed. Technology has often proven itself as a liable resource of providing the means for the concept of the electric car to be realized. However, changes in the socio economic environment have consistently eroded the space for realization, as several case studies on the innovation of the electric car have clearly shown (Callon 1986). Consequently, the industry is subjected to consumer awareness and a huge portion of goodwill that entails the authenticity by which the companies in the industry have to maintain and develop. If they fail to do so, the new push for green alternative car propulsion fuels and solutions will suffer the same fate as the previous pushes.

Still, the technologies together with market opportunities seem to constantly breathe new life into the old concept of electric propulsion of cars. The Edison Consortium, among others comprising Siemens, Dong Energy, the Danish Energy Association and the DTU Centre for Electric Technology, has chosen Denmark as a test country for introducing the concept. Led by Danish Energy Association, the consortium is to design an infrastructure where the electric cars communicate intelligently with the electricity grid (Hansen 2008). It is the vision that the recharging of cars are build upon the idea of exploiting a surplus of electricity that is generated from wind turbines and wind mills in particular (Frijs-Madsen 2008). The idea includes that cars will be able to recharge when the wind is blowing, and supply electricity to the grid at times of peak load.

Indeed, the wind is often blowing in the region and not just as a weather phenomenon. Studies on innovation and market creation suggest that variables in the innovation processes and creation of markets often change directions according to which way the wind is blowing in terms of shifts in political, economical and sociological interests.

Own conceptualisation of the Danish Electric Car concept, based on Michel Callon’s Actor Network Theory (ANT).

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