chapter  9
20 Pages

The role of national policy for electric and hybrid- electric vehicle development in Japan

ByHANS POHL

Introduction Technological change is a challenge for policy makers as well as for industry. On the one hand, policy is expected to be market-and technology-neutral, at least to a large extent (cf. Nelson and Winter, 1982). But on the other, policy should encourage the development of new technologies (Carlsson and Jacobsson, 1997; Dosi, 1982; Dosi et al., 2006). Policy research provides several potential areas for policy makers to target, predominantly at the national level. The proposed degree of public involvement varies considerably between different strands of research. In the evolutionary tradition and the innovation system approach, which is the main theoretical framework for this study, the multifaceted role of government to address systemic failures and bottlenecks is acknowledged (cf. Bergek et al., 2008; Freeman, 1987; Nelson, 1993). This chapter discusses the role of national policy makers in one major technological change. Specifically, the role of Japanese policy in relation to the electrification of road vehicles is covered. How has policy in Japan and elsewhere influenced the development? What other factors are considered important among the actors in the innovation system? Japanese automakers have led the introduction of the first type of mass-produced partly electrified vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs). Accumulated global deliveries of electrified cars until the end of 2008 indicates that Japanese automakers had a 95 per cent share of the market, with Toyota as the undisputed leader with 80 per cent of the volume (based on data from Honda, 2009; Hybrid Market Dashboard, 2007, 2008, 2009; Kalhammer et al., 2007; Toyota, 2009). Given this success, it appears highly relevant to study the role of Japanese policy makers in relation to this potential paradigmatic shift in technology. In comparison to other policy-oriented studies, this study provides a relatively detailed description of the industrial actors and activities. This reflects the role of various actors in the specific innovation system. This study covers all main electrification candidates. HEVs use both electric motors and an internal combustion engine (ICE) for propulsion, whereas ‘pure’ electric vehicles have no engine. An HEV’s external energy supply is fuel for the engine and, in the case of plug-in HEVs, electricity from the grid as well. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) use electricity from the grid only, and fuel cell

electric vehicles (FCVs) are normally fuelled by hydrogen. In this chapter, (H)EV is used to denote all types of electric propulsion, from micro hybrids, via full hybrids to all-electric vehicles. The main reason for this inclusive approach is that the interrelations and synergies between the different alternatives are strong. Another important technological aspect is the role of HEVs in relation to other types of vehicle electrification. It has been argued that HEV introduction hinders a rapid development and introduction of more electrified vehicles, i.e. BEVs or FCVs. However, it appears as if most researchers now agree upon the role of HEVs as enabling solutions in the potential path towards fully electrified vehicles. In Pohl (2010), the role of HEVs is used to argue for a new concept: interparadigmatic hybrids, which are temporary enabling combinations of technologies from the old and new paradigm.