A shadow on Solar Mobility: the impact of failure on socio-technical system configurations
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This thesis examines the societal challenge of transitioning towards sustainable mobility, emphasising the significant impact of individual actors on the transition's speed and direction. As the adoption of electric vehicles increases worldwide, different mobility niches start to emerge. Solar Electric Mobility, led by the Solar Electric Vehicle manufacturer Lightyear, sits between energy and transport as a potential next step in sustainable mobility. The bankruptcy of Lightyear, however, puts forth the question of how capabilities of a firm and its constraints lead to transition failure and what impact Lightyear's failure has on the direction and configuration of the solar mobility niche. The study's theoretical framework focuses on sustainable transitions with the multi-level perspective and the impact of business models and the business model design space on transitions. The thesis explores the interaction between the micro-level of the firm and the macro-level while recognising the underexplored role of failure in transitions. A Socio-Technical Configuration analysis was conducted on the solar mobility niche before and after the failure of Lightyear. This semi-quantitative case study conducted expert interviews and built a document stock of internal and grey literature. The findings were coded and transformed into network models to understand the dynamics in transitions and reconfigurations after the failure. Lightyear had a central role in the niche and was a major hub that connected most actors and concepts. The niche reconfigured after the failure of Lightyear and other (Solar) Electric vehicle manufacturers filled the void with less focus on solar electric vehicles' legitimacy through policy and more emphasis on Vehicle Integrated Photovoltaics throughout all niche dimensions. This thesis contributes to understanding sustainable transitions' dynamics, particularly the impact of failures on a micro level and how they influence the macro-level socio-technical system configuration. The solar mobility niche highlights the importance of shared responsibility for a niche and finds that a niche can reconfigure in a more resilient structure better suited to be assimilated by the regime. Mission-oriented innovation policy should be adaptive to the needs of emerging pathways, whilst firm leadership should focus on aligning its mission with its capabilities.