User involvement in Dutch niche experiments in the transition towards electric mobility
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Transitions are long, complex and gradual processes that often start with niche experiments with a new technology. Battery powered vehicles are one of the promising technologies at the start of such a transition. With the ambition of the Netherlands to be a leading player in the transition towards electric mobility, several niche experiments are taking place. Literature emphasizes the important role of experiments in a protected space at the start of a transition. In order to build successful niche experiments, the shaping of expectations and multiple learning processes are seen as important steps. Both first- and second-order learning by providers is necessary to learn both from the technology and about preferences and the social embedding of the technology in society. Users play an important role in these processes. The goal of this research is therefore to shed light on the way interactions with users are shaped in niche experiments with electric vehicles in the Netherlands. This research is conducted as a multiple case study. Interviews with both providers of experiments and users in these experiments provided in-depth insight in the interactions between them in the four cases under investigation. Most important outcomes are that providers of niche experiments have difficulties in selecting the right users for their experiments and tend to have too little focus on the interaction with the users. Providers should therefore think about the users they want to incorporate in their experiment and the way they will setup a close interaction with these users before the experiment starts. This research showed that users do have a lot of knowledge about the technology and the experiment they are being a part of, but also showed the difficulties of project teams to extract these learnings from the users. In conclusion, literature warns for a too strong focus on technological learning and highlights the role users can play in societal learning processes. Most experiments however proved to have this strong focus on technological learning, despite the role users can play in societal learning processes.