Public policy, industrial innovation, and the zero-emission vehicle

Eisler, Matthew (2021) Public policy, industrial innovation, and the zero-emission vehicle. Business History Review, 94 (4). pp. 779-802. ISSN 0007-6805 (

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Regulating environmental outcomes without stipulating the technologies to accomplish them is a characteristically Ameri- can form of governmental intervention. This approach aims to encourage industry to address public-policy concerns while minimizing interference in its affairs. However, California’s zero-emission-vehicle mandate of 1990 implied the develop- ment of specific technologies with highly disruptive sociotechni- cal effects. The most practical zero-emission vehicle of the day was the all-battery electric vehicle, a technology characterized by the temporal mismatch of its components. Batteries have shorter life-spans than electric motors, a durability dilemma that rewards battery-making. In response, General Motors and Toyota devised strategies to mitigate this risk that involved mediating the technology of the Ovonic Battery Company.


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