Technological Regime of Electric Car Paper

 STS Research project

“To what extent has the Dutch government successfully applied strategic niche management for Electric Vehicles?”

Pieter van den Bosch s1220373
Pjotr Kerssens s1005766
Ruud Van Laar s1026496

Supervised by
Prof. dr.. N.E.J. Oudshoorn


In this paper it will be analysed – as the title suggests – to what extent the Dutch government has successfully applied strategic niche management in the promotion of the use and adoption of the electric personal vehicle. Both Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV’s) and Fully Electric Vehicles (FEV’s) will be considered when talking about electric vehicles in this research paper. We will use the evolutionary approach for this analysis and specifically focus on strategic niche management. This is because the electric vehicle (EV) is a product that is already being developed worldwide but still has to conquer a large part of the market. This economical aspect makes the evolutionary approach an appropriate tool to analyse the adoption of the EV in the Netherlands. Within the evolutionary approach, we have decided to focus on the aspect of strategic niche management because we do not want to cover a too broad area in our research because this would hold us back from going deeper in the material.

To give an explanation of what strategic niche management is, we will use the description of Kemp “Strategic niche management is the creation, development and controlled phase-out of protected spaces for the development and use of promising technologies by means of experimentation, with the aim of (1) learning about the desirability of the new technology and (2) enhancing the further development and rate of application of the new technology.”[i] This is an analogy to the term ‘niche’ in biology where organisms can develop in a safe environment where no other organisms that endanger their existence are (yet) living. In strategic niche management an entity (in our case the government) tries to find a way to make it possible for a technology to develop in a ‘safe’ environment. This is often a geographical space where extra effort is put to drive away competing technologies or special effort is done to promote this underdeveloped technology. Strategic niche management is often applied to induce a ‘regime shift’.  If a regime shift takes place, a new technology has gone from the underdog position to having the large market share and is then accepted by the largest part of society.


To analyze the strategic niche management do this for the case of the electric vehicle, we have divided our research in three parts. The focus lays upon the factors that are needed for a successful implementation of the electrical car in society. This includes policies, technology, infrastructure and characteristics of an electric car.

At first we will describe (1) the technological regime of the electric vehicle. This concept was proposed by R. Kemp[ii]This gives us insight into relevant factors for the successful adoption of this new technology which can also contribute to the Dutch specific case. Second, we will look at the (2) regime shift preconditions. Here we will research and describe what is necessary for a regime shift to take place. This is what the Dutch government eventually must try to make happen if they want the Electric vehicle to become the dominant technology in the field. Third, we will consider (3) the lines the government has set out considering EV’s through NL Agency and look at a specific case in Rotterdam where the local government has applied strategic niche management. Finally, we will conclude by answering the question whether the Dutch government has been successful in applying strategic niche management.

For the first two questions we will mainly use literature research and for the third part we will have qualitative interviews with several relevant persons. These persons are (1) an end-user of the product, mr. Oude Luttinkhuis, (2) Jos Streng from the Rotterdam municipality, (3) managers of Allianz insurances involved in the execution of the electric car insurance.


Chapter 1 Analysis of the Technological Regime

We analyse the technological regime of the electric vehicle as proposed by R. Kemp et al, 1998. This technological regime’ is defined as a set of rules embedded in an engineering community’s institutions and infrastructure which shape technological innovations.[iii] R. Kemp et al (p177-181) specify this in the factors below according their definition: “the whole complex of scientific knowledges, engineering practices, production process technologies, product characteristics, skills and procedures, and institutions and infrastructures that make up the totality of a technology.”

In his article, Kemp divides the technological regime in 7 factors who together make up the technological regime. The factors that we will also consider are (1) technological factors, (2) production factors, (3) infrastructure and maintenance, (4) government policy and regulatory frameworks, (5) cultural and psychological factors, (6) demand factors and (7) undesirable societal and environmental effects of the new technology.

1.1 Technology

According to Kemp et al. a technology is defined by the whole complex of scientific knowledges.In this section we will consider all scientifical knowledge and the technologies that apply to the EV.
Crucial components of the technology are the batteries, and the capacity of batteries has increased tremendously over the last few decades. In 1990 increasing numbers of electric vehicles begin to appear again with new battery technologies and Tesla was the first to implement a Li-ion battery in a car. Rechargeable Li-ion batteries are the industry standard for laptop and tablet computers but now also for the electric cars. While Li-ion batteries have a high energy density and can store large amounts of energy, they suffer from a low power density and are unable to quickly accept or discharge energy. Scientist have found new ways to increase battery performance besides alternatives such as Lead-acid batteries which allows EV’s to drive 130 km per charge or NiMH batteries that have a higher density and can deliver up to 200 km per charge. New Lithium-ion delivers 320-480 km per charge.

Moreover, crucial is the power of the drivetrain. The power of drivetrains of current electric vehicles is already comparable to that of ICEVs. Finding the economic balance of range versus performance, battery capacity versus weight, and battery type versus cost challenges is crucial in the technology. The action radius plays a very important role in the EV which is referred to in the interview with Allianz. Producers are mainly focussing on the development of a higher action radius.The production involved such as electrical storage, increasing action radius, will be more explained in the next chapter.[iv][v]  (Westbrook,2005)

1.2 Production

In this section manufacturers are analysed as well as production factors. A big contribution in ‘engineering practices’ is the electric vehicle innovation  by Tesla Motors. In the production Tesla focuses on cost reduction of the batteries and increase of the battery performance. In below chart, you can see that they are way ahead of their competitors in creating low cost batteries but high quality cars which can travel high distance when comparing with their rivals cars. Cost efficiency and high performance are important factors in production.

Resources of the batteries , (valuewalk, 2013)

Moreover, other car manufacturers are having difficulty creating vehicles that can travel more than 100 miles which forms an important production limitation for car manufacturers to enter the new market. Moreover, most manufacturers have a core-business based on selling traditional fuel consuming cars and do not want to deviate from their strategy because of vested interests. As an alternative manufacturers have produced PHEVs.These manufacturers are contributing to the production factors as well in the market, such as the  Toyota Prius (24%) along with the Chevrolet Volt (44%) in the US in 2012. These below manufactures are important factors of the technological regime because they produce the  technology. Allianz states that it is very likely that the other car brands will start to produce EV in the future.


1.3 Infrastructure and maintenance

The electric car requires new infrastructure such as charging and the financial infrastructure has also be developed (payment processing). According to Eurelectric (Eurelectric,2013) there are many parties that contribute to this infrastructure and they have provided a good integrated market model for the EV. In this section the most important actors and their role in the infrastructure will be explained. We see infrastructure as: the basic of facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons.


Electricity retailers:

In the current infrastructure there are Electricity Supply Retailers, which are companies that hold licences (or are active on the market) to sell electricity that they produce themselves or purchase on the electricity markets to end users, with whom they have power contracts with fixed locations for the supply. A Transmission System Operator is an involved party that is responsible for a stable power system operation (including the organisation of physical balance) through a transmission grid in a geographical area. The TSO  will also determine and be responsible for cross-border capacity and exchanges.
Distribution System Operator is involved to hold and manage the assets for low voltage, medium voltage and high voltage distribution networks, and is responsible for connecting all loads to the electric system. The DSO will maintaining a stable, safe and reliable network for the supply of electricity to all customers, which is an important part of the infrastructure.
Financial processing:

A Balance Responsible Party will provide a contract proving financial security and identifying balance responsibility. This is the only role allowing a party to nominate energy on a wholesale level in the infrastructure. Moreover a Balance Supplier is a party that markets the difference between actual metered energy consumption and the energy bought. In addition the Balance Supplier markets any difference with the firm energy contract and the metered production.

A Metering Point Operator is the party responsible for metering duties allowing a consumer to purchase electricity on the supply market through the distribution grid.  In most countries the role is played by the DSO allowing to offer a pay-per-use payment model when considered for e-mobility.
Charging stations:

A Charging Station (equipment) owner owns the charging station. A city can own the public charging stations but outsource the operation to a commercial party. Besides physical infrastructure parties as mentioned above there are also financial infrastructure parties. Below is a graphical overview of the infrastructure schematically. Maintenance for EV are provided by service stations of the cars manufactures, in Amsterdam for example are several maintenance points for EVs. Below is a generalized overview of the infrastructure explained. Super charges can charge car within 30 minutes but Allianz states that there are simply not enough charge stations in public areas and that the technology is underdeveloped (not widely accessible either), although companies can choose to place a charge station at the location of the office.

1.3.1 Charge stations in the Netherlands

A main aspect in case of the electric car is that the new technology may not fit in the current transportation system. The use of the new technology requires infrastructure and places to charge batteries (supply stations).  In our analysis we want to know how this supply availability has developed, to show insight if the technology is becoming more accessible. The graph below shows us the development of the charge stations availability.

In the Netherlands there are currently 2000 charge stations which are also placed by stichting e-laad. (source: stichting e-laad). The graph below shows that the growth has been linear from August 2010 to October 2012. However, the placing of the charge stations stopped because it was not backed by the government anymore (e-laad, 2012). We can assume due to the linear development that the charge station availability will keep on growing due to this regularity once new funding will be initiated. Allianz states during the interview that more charge stations need to be placed in the Netherlands. In this graph however we see significant growth over the past three years.

1.4 Governmental Policies & Regulatory Framework

Governments are part of the technological regime because 1) they often provide incentives to stimulate technologies and 2) they provide regulations which a technology has to comply with.

1.4.1. Incentives for new technologies

The Dutch government, as most western governments, has the wish to invest in cleaner transport. The main reason for this, also described in the later section about Agency NL, is to comply with European norms on air quality, to reduce CO2 pollution in accordance to the Kyoto Protocol and to become less dependent on oil. They has tried to stimulate clean transport via the “Fonds Economische Structuurversterkingen” or FES, and now does that through Agency NL.

However, some ways of stimulating technologies are more successful than others. This can be illustrated by the stimulation programme of the Japanese government for FEV’s, analysed by Max Åhman in the paper “Government policy and the development of electric vehicles in Japan.”[vi] Because the Japanese government has been fairly successful in the promotion of the EV, this case can be used as a leading example for the Dutch situation. Illustrating this is important to be able to show whether the strategy deployed by the Dutch government is a successful one.

The situation studied by Åhman is the development of the EV in Japan from the 1970’s until the 1990’s. The Japanese government wanted to become less dependent on oil because of the 1970’s oil crisis and reduce the air pollution in urbanized areas. The electric vehicle seemed to be the solution to both of these problems, so the Japanese government developed a long-term project for the development of this technology. Some important conclusions can be drawn from the Japanese strategy about successful policies when stimulating EV’s. This goes for both the successes and failures accomplished by the Japanese government.

To start with the successes: Åhman shows clearly that interaction with the industry is crucial to success. The Japanese government funded both scientific and industry-based R&D, creating consortia and strategic guidance to allow inter-company spillover and build up a solid knowledge base. This strategy has had, according to Åhman, a major positive effect on the development of the BEV.

A second reason for success is that the Japanese government had a long-term, multiple step programme. It did not stop after stimulating R&D, but also provided niches where the developed technology could be applied to let the technology mature: it conducted leasing and purchasing incentive programmes, such as leasing services for private companies and relief of taxes, and  it also replaced a part of the public vehicles by electric vehicles.

The last reason for success is the rapid reaction to the socio-economical dynamics, thus implicitly using an evolutionary approach. When the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) started to become a commercial success, the Japanese government was quick to include the HEV into their promotional programmes, because this technology also partly served the original goals and because it could serve as a stepping stone for the broader use of the BEV.

As a concluding note, a difference between the Dutch and Japanese situation has to be stated: whereas Japan has a thriving car industry, the Netherlands has no own car manufacturers and thus has to rely on car companies from other European countries. This creates a threshold for companies to get involved in Dutch programmes, because joining programmes in their own countries is often easier. This has to be taken into account as well when trying to convince car manufacturers.

1.4.2. Regulations

Although the government wants to stimulate EV’s, it also makes it difficult for EV’s because of the regulations for road vehicles. EV’s have to comply with the standard safety norms for road vehicles as well as additional specific norms for EV’s, such as norms for the cables in the car and the plug for loading the vehicle.

1.5 Undesirable societal & environmental impact

The establishment of the EV as a competitive technology could pose some problems to society and the environment, although it seems to be a solution for the environmental issue as well.

Of course, the EV poses an environmental issue in the processing of the cars at the end of their lifecycle. However, this issue does not involve an extensive restructuring of societal processes: in current society, batteries are already deployed, recycled and discarded on a rather large scale. Including the EV in this process will probably not pose a big problem.

What could pose a bigger problem is the energy consumption of EV’s. EV’s are, due to their limited action range, likely to be used mainly in urban areas for commuter movement. Commuters grossly follow the same routine, so the charging of these vehicles will mostly take place around the same times.

Adolfo Perujo and Biagio Ciuffo have estimated the impact of this development on the electric power consumption in the Milan area.[vii] Their study shows that although the energy consumption of the EV’s in the Milan area will at most make up 2,5% of the total electric energy consumption, even when having a market share of 30%, EV’s could have a major impact on the maximum electric power demand, increasing it with at most 34%. This is due to the simultaneous loading of EV’s by commuters. This effect cannot be handled by current power grids, so a transition to grids with higher capacities and/or smart grids, where EV’s are used as flexible storage units for electricity, is needed to cope with the extra energy demands created by large scale usage of EV’s.

1.6 Cultural and Psychological Factors

In the acceptation of the EV, it is important to note that the technology must be accepted by human beings. Therefore, human factors like experiences and suppositions will play a role with regard to the acceptance of EV’s. With these psychological factors we should not only consider the fears or expectations the (potential) customers have towards the new product but also how others anticipate the behaviour of customers. With this last sentence we mean for example that if the producer or designer of an EV expects that the customer will not like the product or has the feeling it will be a disaster, he will not develop it.

In her article, Long claims “A major barrier is that consumers tend to resist new technologies that are considered alien or unproved”.[viii] Because of this customer behaviour it will take some time and small steps to change a culture towards accepting a new technology. This process of changing a cultural view will not happen very fast because it consists out of altering the mindset of most individuals making up that culture. People are not used to the EV being a serious competitor to the ICEV and will remain with that thought until it is changed, but their mind is already ‘pre-set’ in having this thought. In order to change this cultural view of personal transport vehicles, the opinions of most individuals have to be changed. One the other hand however, there are those people who we’ll describe as ‘forerunners’, who are very interested in the new technology and want to be among the first to use this.

It is only thanks to the environmental issues and the notion of running out of fossil fuels that there is increased attention for alternative transportation methods. This has led to a whole new way of technologies to be ‘good’ and this concept has yet to emerge in society. Because people tend to judge a new technology on the basis of the old one, the new electric vehicle seems like a downgrade on all fronts if the environmental impact is not taken into consideration. The Dutch are however famous for their their miserliness and this also showed in the interview with the end user whose main reason of using the electric vehicle was to save money.

1.7 Demand Factors

Close to the cultural and psychological factors lie the demand factors. These determine what the public wants and at what point they would accept the new technology. In this section we will elaborate on all demands that the relevant parties have. We will make a distinction between private users and investors.

The user is still in the best position to make demands, as he still can determine whether to purchase a car or not and the EVs only will get sold if people buy them. There have been several studies to determine the core values for the single users. It turns out that some public desires are global and some are more geographically oriented. For instance, citizens of Hong Kong would find it a major plus if the use of EVs would reduce the smog.[ix] For less rural areas this is hardly an issue. In general we can say that people do not want to lose comfort. The Key factors are: cost (both long and short term), driving range, environmental impact, speed, charging infrastructure and safety.[x]

Private investors (companies are here considered to be private investors as well) invests because they see an opportunity to make money. Demand may be a strong word but there will certainly be an expectation to make a profit on the long term. Before an investment is made, the investor needs to believe – to be convinced – that the investment will be profitable.

Chapter 2. Strategic niche management preconditions


In order to create regime shift through successful niches, a good set-up of all boundaries is necessary. We will use the 5 preconditions that R. Kemp has distinguished to determine whether the EV is a viable technology for a regime shift towards environmentally friendly transport. We will evaluate economic, managerial, social and technological preconditions and look at the availability of niches in the Netherlands.[xi]

Economic Precondition

To let any technology develop, we need people who develop them and materials to make the development possible. These essential factors do not come for free. Like in biology, there needs to be some nutrition the developing entity can thrive on and in the world of technological development this is money. So there needs to be some economic incentive for the development and other related parties.

It is the knowledge (or fear) that we will run out of fossil at some point that drives the public to be interested in electrical cars and other solution. This causes car companies to look at and invest in new technologies because it is certain that ICE-cars will have to be replaced. Without fossil fuels to burn those technologies will become useless.

Governments already have a direct incentive for reducing greenhouse gases because of the carbon taxes. For the customer it is in many cases not yet attractive to change to electric vehicles. Only in the case of leasing cars, as came forward in the interview with mr. Oude Luttinkhuis, there is some financial interest (because of governmental tax reduction).

Managerial and institutional precondition

Another important precondition for a successful niche is that the new technology should fit in the current socio-technical system or at least can be implemented in the current systems. Because there are very clear rules about safety and when vehicles are road-legal, the electric car technology can be implemented in that part of its use when tests prove that the vehicles are up to national standards. Aside from maintenance and charging facilities the electric car is ready to be implemented in the current socio-technical system as it is.

Social precondition

In order to be successful, a new technology should be able to solve one or more social problems; if this is not the case, there would be no incentive for investment. For the electric vehicle, this is the case. Electric vehicles reduce the emission of greenhouse gases even when the energy used is not green.[xii] Furthermore, electric vehicles reduce smog levels in city areas, because it does not emit anything itself. Lastly, it reduces the dependence on oil. These three social problems form the main incentive for local and national governments to invest in electric transportation technologies.

Technological-scientific precondition

According to Kemp et all, the technology must have major technological opportunities embedded in it, and sufficient scope for branching and extension or overcoming initial limitations. In the interview with Allianz it is shown that the most important variable (or factor) for their customers not to buy the electric car is the action radius (the distance that a car can travel with a single full charge) besides the high costs. For most electric cars this is 150 kilometres. Tesla motors is developing a car that can travel a distance of 300-500 km by developing batteries and reducing battery costs in the process. Tesla states that they mainly focus on reducing battery costs and team up with Panasonic which offers the highest energy-density cells and industry-leading performance Nickel-type cathode technology. The technology has also be accompanied with optimised charge station and deliver technology.

Availability of niches

Although the electric vehicle has its limitations, it can be used, and is already being used, for several applications. Electric vehicles can already be used if the distances travelled are not too long, long loading times are not problematic and the higher price is not too big of a problem, for example in car sharing pools or because of tax benefits for private owners. Therefore the Netherlands are ideal for pilot projects, because it is a small, densely populated country. The Dutch government indeed admits this as well and has subsidized projects in the following areas: carsharing/carpooling, cargo transport, taxi transport and waste collection, so there are enough niches around. This will be illustrated in the next chapter with the example of the “Rotterdam Tests Electric Vehicles” project.[xiii]

Chapter 3: Strategic niche management in the Netherlands

The third part of this paper, will illustrate how the Dutch government currently applies strategic niche management for the Electric Vehicle. It will be explained how this is managed on a national level by investigating what efforts NL Agency, the division of the ministry of Economical Affairs responsible for promoting electric transport, puts in the promotion of the electric vehicle. Then a case study will be shown of the local government of Rotterdam who – in collaboration with several companies – received subsidy from NL Agency.[xiv] They tested 75 EV’s and PHEV’s for a year to find out how they were used. This research is used to set out future plans of EV promotion.

National level

As NL Agency itself puts it, “NL Agency is a division of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs that carries out policy and subsidy programmes focussing on sustainability, innovation, international business and cooperation. NL Agency is the number one contact point for businesses, knowledge institutions and government bodies who are seeking information and advice about financing, networking and regulatory matters.”

NL Agency has made arrangements to offer subsidy to companies and local governments to stimulate the use of electric vehicles in order to reach its goal to have 200.000 (partly) Electric Vehicles in the Netherlands by 2020. [xv]

This next section will give an overview of the way in which NL Agency tries to create niches. In their plan of action, NL agency has three main points they focus on. In order to come in consideration for subsidy, a project should fit as best as possible in these critical focus points.

The first one is their plan to work with ‘focus areas’. These are geographical areas where the advantages of the electric vehicle are most beneficial. These are local areas, mainly in the large cities where the driving distances are short and air pollution is a problem. By focusing on these areas where chances of success are higher, the government tries to create a ‘critical mass’ that will eventually be large enough to create a snowball effect.

Secondly, they aim at that part of the market where the technology can be successful. This is where (1) vehicles have a fairly large daily driving distance. Only then will the technology be attractive because of its high starting costs but low variable costs like maintenance and the fuel price per km. An additional condition (2) is that the traffic movements take place within a limited radius, because of the limited action radius and the need for loading of the vehicle. A next condition (3) is that they help to reduce air pollution. The last condition (4) is that there must be some notion of ‘environmental entrepreneurship’ for the focus group using the car because using these vehicles requires the right mentality. The 5 market segments NL agency will focus on are: Logistic & distribution, business transport, public transport, company vehicles (also garbage trucks) and governmental vehicles.

Third, they aim at increasing the economical side of the technology. This will be done by focussing on scientific research and offering help to related companies. This is also meant to increase employment rates. For example, a battery testing centre has been initiated in Helmond. Dutch companies can use the knowledge that is developed here to keep ahead of international competitors.

Besides these focus points, the Dutch government has already initiated several incentives for all civilians or companies to switch to electric vehicles. By means of tax reduction for low-emission vehicles and investments in nationwide charging infrastructure through the e-laad foundation the bar is lowered for anyone wanting to purchasing an electric vehicle.[xvi]

Local level: Case study of Rotterdam

The Rotterdam area is one of 9 experimental grounds for the monitoring and promotion of Electric Vehicle use. In a project called “Rotterdam Tests Electric Vehicles”, the Rotterdam municipality, power company Eneco and network administrator Stedin together gathered data about the use of 75 newly bought electric cars in their car fleets and their influence on the electricity grid. For this report, an interview has been held with an employee of the Rotterdam municipality for some backgrounds about the project. The aim of the interview was to uncover the goals of the municipality with this project, the support granted by the Dutch national government and the chances of success of the experiment.

NL Agency provided a substantial financial support to the project: with the money provided by NL Agency, 30 of the 75 cars for the project could be purchased. [xvii]NL Agency supported this project because it fits the goals of NL Agency for electric transport very well: it entails a great number of kilometres traveled per day, a lot of traffic movements in a limited radius and a great improvement of the air quality. As stated in the section above, these are the main criteria for projects to gain support from NL Agency.

It seems a bit startling at first sight that this project was mainly started to improve the urban air quality of Rotterdam, while it is usually promoted as a “green” project. However, projects aimed at improving air quality qualify for governmental financial support and prevent new construction projects from being blocked because they (could) increase the pollution in their surroundings, so that is the main reason for local governments to get involved in them. That it provides a green image to the city is an advantageous side-effect.

The results of the project are promising. It shows that (the newer models of) EV’s can already be effectively employed in several functions, and the municipality has the intention to continue “electrifying” their car fleet. Already 60 percent of their delivery van fleet could be electrified based on the based on current EV models, and the same goes for 15 percent of the Eneco and Stedin fleets. Eneco also wants to make a business case out of EV charging stations, and Stedin wishes to play a facilitating role in making their grid better prepared for extensive use of EV’s.

The municipality feels that the example they set could spread to businesses in the Rotterdam region as well. The tax benefits associated with PHEV’s and EV’s could really help to make this happen, just as the loading facilities that are being placed by the municipality. Also, the interviewee from the Rotterdam municipality has expressed his faith in the possibility of this technology becoming a competing technology for ordinary cars in the near future.

The technology also has proved to have some disadvantages: because of the long loading times and limited ranges, their applicability is still limited. Also, electric cars perform less well during winter time, and lastly it could pose a problem to the current electricity grid when EV’s are used on a large scale.

However, none of these problems seem to be insuperable in the near future, and the users in this project actually are quite satisfied with the results, rating it with a 7.[xviii] Therefore, this example clearly shows that it is feasible technology and that the strategies employed by the national government and the Rotterdam municipality work.


In the previous chapters we have looked at the technological regime and the preconditions that are required for an applying strategic niche management and the policies set out by the Dutch government. With this information we can finally conclude to what extent the Dutch government has applied strategic niche management successfully for the EV. In order to fully understand our conclusion, it is important to recall the definition of R. Kemp et al. that we gave in the introduction: “Strategic niche management is the creation, development and controlled phase-out of protected spaces for the development and use of promising technologies by means of experimentation, with the aim of (1) learning about the desirability of the new technology and (2) enhancing the further development and rate of application of the new technology.”

In the case of NL Agency we have seen that the government has been very specific in selecting for what projects they want to offer subsidy. The factors that are considered are specially designed to make sure that the electric vehicle technology is used in situations where it is in an advantage to other technologies. This creates niches where this new technology can flourish because it replaces the old technologies in these cases. The niches have been selected on both geographical areas and areas of application (like public transport) so that multiple ways of embedding the technology can be researched. This will give information about the desirability of the new technology in these specific areas. At the same time, the government has invested in a battery test lab in Helmond to increase the development of the electric vehicle and tax reduction has been offered to promote the sales of this technology in order to increase the rate of application.

Referring to the successful strategy of the Japanese government in the last decades, we can draw some conclusion about the viability of the Dutch strategy. Since the Dutch government invests in the build-up of technological knowhow about electric vehicles in the Dutch industry, it also helps to develop the technology while at the same time creating job and investments opportunities. Furthermore, the Dutch government has a long term approach because it knows that this technology will be needed in the long run. Lastly, the Dutch government explicitly sells the Netherlands as an excellent experimental garden for electric vehicles, and therefore car manufacturers are keen to collaborate with the Dutch government in favour of their homeland. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the lines the government has set out areadequate for the creation of niches. However, there is a difference between the lines set out and the way in which they are executed.

The project “Rotterdam Tests Electric Vehicles” was a concrete example of a niche created by the municipality in collaboration with the national government. The aim of the project was to find out when and where electric vehicles could be used in the Rotterdam region, with the aim to help the development of the technology and its supporting loading network in the Rotterdam region. The main reason for the municipality to do this is to improve the air quality in Rotterdam, because in the near future Rotterdam will have to comply with European norms in order to prevent a building stop.

This strategy has worked fairly well: the municipality has discovered that it can already use electric vehicles, especially the newer models with extended drive ranges as well as hybrid vehicles, for various applications, such as the maintenance of tram and metro network or transport of employees in the Rotterdam Port, Stedin has discovered what the influence of the usage of electric vehicles on the local electricity grid is and Essent has been able to find out how they should create a business model for selling electricity for electric vehicles. All parties have the ambition to continue the use and stimulation of this technology, and the municipality expects that successful use by the municipality will be a leading example for private businesses and even private owners.

Downsides of this technology have also been discovered in the Rotterdam experiment: the grid cannot yet cope with a large scale usage of this technology, the cars can as of yet only be used within a very limited driving range, users have to adapt their driving strategy and the cars perform considerably less well in the colder winter time because of the reduced capacity of the batteries and the heating of the car.

However, these negative results are not necessarily bad results: they can be used to point in the right direction for the development of the technology and the grid, which will help to make a regime shift possible.

Therefore it can be concluded that Rotterdam has successfully applied strategic niche management.

Room for improvement

If in both cases the strategic niche management was a success, then why is not yet everyone driving in electric cars? This is because society does not change that fast and the fact that the strategic niche management was successful does not mean that the technology is perfect or suitable for all forms of use. The first steps toward implementation of these technologies have been made with success but the road ahead is still unclear. Both the technology and the cultural perception of the technology has yet to change before a regime shift can take place. All that can be said is that the successful application of niche management by NL agency and the Rotterdam municipality have both contributed towards reaching this goal although there is room for more improvement.

It is uncertain whether these dispositions really have the effects they portrait. For example, in the interview with mr. Oude Luttinkhuis it became clear that there was only one reason why this person chose for this new technology and that was because of the financial discount. If that is the only reason for the greater part of the population, a regime shift will only take place once EV use becomes cheaper than ICEV use.

Furthermore, Allianz states that there are uncertainties regarding (local) ownership of  charge stations and the funding aspect of this not fully backed-up by government. The high rate of placement of electric charge stations has decreased. Currently unions are searching for alternatives to help users of electric cars with new public charges stations. This process is not fully completed by municipalities.[xix]

Discussion of STS approach

For this research the evolutionary approach was used to describe the technology. This had several benefits. For one, it gives a good global overview on macro scale due to its focus on economics. Because there is a large focus on global issues such as economical and environmental issues, we can consider the dynamics regarding this technology from a global – and more objective – point of view. In comparison with the SCOT and ANT approach, the description of the technological development is not focussed on social groups or actants that always give a view of the technology from the centre of that specific social group or actants in a network. Rather, the technology is viewed from a neutral perspective such as ‘economics’. At the same time, this could also be an issue. Because it gives such a broad overview, it lacks focus. With no focus it can be difficult to find nuances and subtle points for specific cases.

With this approach it was not fully emphasized the government wants to promote the Electric vehicle use by in-depth meanings. We have just accepted that it has that certain wish and focused on what is done to make it come true. For example, the government has also initiated the ‘Formule E-team’ to promote the use of the electric car but because this is not easy to consider in terms of niche management we haven’t been able to give any attention to it. The model lacks ‘social groups investigation’ e.g. the alderman of Rotterdam was biased for choosing electric vehicles because she already had those connections from her former employer. This fact would have been more relevant in the SCOT approach to find more meanings.




[i] Kemp, R., J. Schot, and R. Hoogma. 1998. Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: the approach of strategic niche management. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 10, no. P.186

[ii] Kemp, R., J. Schot, and R. Hoogma. 1998. Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: the approach of strategic niche management. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 10, no. 2: 175–196

[iii] (Nelson, R.R., Winter, S.G., 1982)

[iv]Mitchell, T. (2003) “AC Propulsion Debuts tzero with LiIon Battery” AC Propulsion, Inc. press release at Retrieved 5 July 2006.Lithium batteries power hybrid cars of future. Retrieved 22 June 2007.

[v] Gunther, Marc (13 April 2009). “Warren Buffett takes charge”. CNN

[vi] Åhman, Max. “Government policy and the development of electric vehicles in Japan.” Energy Policy 34.4 (2006): 433-443.]

[vii] Perujo, Adolfo, and Biagio Ciuffo. “The introduction of electric vehicles in the private fleet: Potential impact on the electric supply system and on the environment. A case study for the Province of Milan, Italy.” Energy Policy 38.8 (2010): 4549-4561.]

[viii] [Barriers to widespread adoption of electric vehicles: An analysis of consumer attitudes and perceptions]

[ix] [Consumers’ attitudes towards electric cars: A case study of Hong Kong – Claudio O. Delang – 2012, ]

[x] [Barriers to widespread Electric car acceptation – consumer attitude].

[xi] R. Kemp. Et al. pp 186

[xii] [Perujo, Adolfo, and Biagio Ciuffo. “The introduction of electric vehicles in the private fleet: Potential impact on the electric supply system and on the environment. A case study for the Province of Milan, Italy.” Energy Policy 38.8 (2010): 4549-4561.]

[xix] e-laad, 2012)



Summary interview Allianz



In the interview we have spoken to three members of the board of the Allianz group. All members have been involved into operationalisation of electric car and hybrid cars and are involved in the  executive of allianz ( mentioned are e.g. car parks, insurances)


Allianz recognises a call from the market and noticed a movement towards electric cars. This year 2013, it was moreover noteworthy and allianz decided to become member of the

DOET foundation (Dutch Organisation for Electric Transport) which focusses primarily on the Dutch market. Allianz has developed an insurance product for full electric and hybrid plug in cars.
Customer requirements need to be recognised and translated into a broader scope but according to market research the addressed problems seem to be the commonly known problems such as range. Secondly because of the silent nature of the electric car, traffic accidents might increase which can change the damage frequency. The market will rapidly explode when the range factor isn’t limited any more.
According to Allianz the market has also opened up for new companies to enter, Pump stations did not anticipate that much and new electronic charge stations are founded. Charge stations in public space face some problem in funding by government and finance. The network has to be developed and exploited so that costs can heavily be reduced for individual parties.  (cost price problem). Rotterdam will try to have 1000 electric cars at the beginning of  2014.
The upcoming years Allianz thinks that the electric car will reach a new height because that all car manufactures will start to produce full or hybrid electric cars (Golf, Audi, mercedes, bmw). When the range problem is solved the market will rapidly grow further. The example is the new Tesla S which already can drive 250 Km which is an ideal solution for people who can work in their region, this is only a matter of time. An example of the adoption involved also are new micro management of the ev, for example lease plan has to deal with cars that get color codes to be at a charge station. When the car is fully charged someone else can put his car to the outlet since the charge stations are limited. Local management  should help entrepreneurs  in MVO.

Interview: Jos Oude luttinkhuis.

Mr. Oude Luttinkhuis owns an Opel Ampera, this is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The main goal of the interview is to find out what factors played a role in him purchasing this new technology.


Why have you chosen to purchase an Electric Vehicle.

The answer is very simple for me. It is money. By driving this vehicle I don’t have to add extra income to my salary when paying taxes.The looks are nice and the technology is interesting and challenging. My choice did not have anything to do with environmental issues.

What were reasons to doubt your choice?

It takes more effort to drive electric. You need to plug it in every time and it’s such a nuisance to use the cable and you’d have to find charging points everywhere. The recharging needs quite some more attention than an ICE vehicle would. But because it is a hybrid vehicle I do not have the lesser radius.

How did you surpass these reasons?

Well it’s the money again. I could also not charge the car with electricity and only drive on gas but the price per kilometre is cheaper on electricity and for me that worth the trouble.

How do the people in your environment look at you driving the vehicle?

I get a lot of positive reactions. Most people think that I’m doing a good thing by driving this vehicle. I have had a few remarks that this a lesser car because it isn’t that ‘though’. As my former car was an Audi TT.

And do you feel any different driving Electric?

Well no not really, It’s a nice car and it drives great. I can imagine that if you’d have a sports car you would want to hear – and feel – the burning of fuel but I consider this car more to be a limousine that has to drive comfortable and easy and that’s what it does.

After this car, would you use an Electric Vehicle again?

I’m not having any bad experiences but the price has to be right again so only if I would have the economical advantage – or at least no disadvantage – I would keep driving electric.

It is certainly a great car to use for lease driving because of the tax discount.

What would have to change before you’d drive full Electric?

The Range should be sufficient, like the Tesla and it needs to be able to recharge in a small amount of time like the fast-loading. And it should of course be in the same price range as ICE cars. So maybe if the price of the EV goes down or if the price of gasoline goes up.

This is about what I wanted to know. Do you have anything to add?

Well I noted that the car was way less popular in Germany. This is because the highways there have no speed limit in some areas and this car can only do about 130 km/h max. For thesame price you can get a car that goes much faster. In the Netherlands that wouldn’t matter because it is never legal to go that fast and therefore not very useful but this is apparently different in Germany.


Ok then I guess that’s it. Thanks a lot for your time. Have a nice evening.

No problem. Good evening to you too.

PK: Pjotr Kerssens, Student M-PSTS, interviewer

JS: Jos Streng, Employee Rotterdam Municipality, interviewee


PK: Waar wij naar op zoek zijn, is een antwoord op de vraag hoe de Nederlandse overheid probeert het elektrisch rijden te stimuleren en of dat succesvol is gebleken tot nu toe. Mijn eerste vraag gaat hier ook over: het project waar de Gemeente Rotterdam mee bezig is geweest, het testen van elektrisch rijden, is dat onderdeel van een groter project van de Rijksoverheid, zijn zij er ook bij betrokken, of is het alleen de Gemeente geweest?


JS: Nou, het programma waar het deel van uitmaakt heet Rotterdam Test Elektrisch Rijden, dus in die zin is het primair een door Rotterdam geïnitieerd project. Het komt ook voort uit een achtergrond van het verbeteren van de lokale luchtkwaliteit; daar is dit project een onderdeel van, en dat is ook wel weer een missie op nationaal niveau. Er zijn Rijksmiddelen beschikbaar gesteld uit het Fonds Economische Structuurversterkingen, FES-gelden, voor luchtkwaliteitsverbetering in de grote steden, als een soort van cofinanciering ter ondersteuning van de eigen inspanning van de Gemeente op dat gebied. En een onderdeel van de besteding van de Gemeente Rotterdam is al sinds behoorlijk lange tijd, in 2006 of 2007 begonnen en lopend tot 2015, het verschonen van de mobiliteit, dus de verkeersemissie beperken. En onderdeel daar weer van is de verschoning van de “eigen” vloot, vanwege het voorbeeldgedrag en ervaring opdoen om daarmee ook geloofwaardiger en effectiever te kunnen stimuleren voor de private sector.

PK: U geeft aan dat een belangrijk doel voor de Gemeente Rotterdam het verbeteren van de luchtkwaliteit is. Was dat het enige doel, of zijn er meer doelen die de Gemeente had? Speelt bijvoorbeeld de uitstraling mee?

JS: Ja, dat speelt wel mee, maar als het gaat om de verantwoording van de besteding van de gemeentelijke financiële middelen, zowel die intern als naar het Fonds toe, dan is dat toch wel sterk gekoppeld aan daadwerkelijke beperkte emissie of verbetering van de luchtkwaliteit. En het imago wordt natuurlijk zeker optimaal benut. In de bredere zin: moet je kijken hoe Rotterdam de luchtkwaliteit verbetert;dat is niet 100% succesvol, dat zal je ook niet ontgaan zijn denk ik: er is nog steeds wel reden voor de bestuurders om daar aandacht aan te besteden. Het programma loopt af in 2015, maar dan is het probleem nog steeds niet voorbij. Het was gekoppeld aan een uitstel dat de Europese Gemeenschap heeft verleend voor handhaving van regels en wat er ook in Rotterdam zou kunnen gebeuren, is dat er een boete wordt opgelegd, omdat we niet hebben gedaan binnen de afgesproken uitsteltermijn van, geloof ik, 5 jaar, van 2010 tot 2015, wat we hadden moeten doen of wat we beloofd hadden te doen.

PK: En dan gaat de Europese Gemeenschap boetes opleggen na 2015?

JS: Het zou kunnen. Nederland zou niet de enige zijn die dat dan zou treffen, en het is geloof ik wel zo dat de manier waarop de regelgeving is georganiseerd in Nederland naar verhouding zwaar doorwerkt, waar in andere landen de gevolgen veel minder verstrekkend zijn. Dat komt door de koppeling tussen de Ruimtelijke Ordening-wetgeving en dan de EU-wetgeving. Dat was destijds ook een heel belangrijke impuls om dat programma zwaar aan te zetten, omdat het dreigde om de doorgang van allerlei stedelijke ontwikkelingsprojecten op halt te zetten, omdat aangetoond moet worden dat de luchtkwaliteitssituatie niet verslechtert door de toevoeging van verkeersstromen en daarmee de emissie ook niet.

PK: Een vervolgvraag, om even een andere weg in te slaan: waarom heeft de Gemeente Rotterdam voor elektrisch vervoer gekozen om die emissies te verminderen en niet voor andere opties, bijvoorbeeld rijden op waterstof, of andere manieren van emissievermindering dan bij transport?

JS: Nou, een van de belangrijkste argumenten voor elektrisch vervoer is dat de lokale emissie van schadelijke stoffen veel minder is. Dat kun je ook in de rapportage van RTER zien: NOx is gewoon niets, CO2 strikt genomen lokaal ook, omdat de elektriciteit die nodig is – om de batterij op te laden moetje elektriciteit maken en daarbij komt doorgaans CO2 vrij, tenzij je dat dan weer 100% groen weet op te wekken, maar dat is de komende jaren toch nog niet mogelijk natuurlijk – niet lokaal wordt opgewekt. Wij hebben gezegd: we baseren ons op de Nederlandse energie-mix, en daar zit gewoon nog kolencentrales in, en ook aardgas uiteraard, en dat is vaak ook nog van fossiele oorsprong.
En als het dan gaat over fijnstof, dan heb je natuurlijk ook nog te maken met dingen als remvoering en zo, de combinatie van natuurlijk de knalpijp van met name dieselauto’s maar zeker ook door remwerking, dan zit daar een verbeterpunt.

Een oplossing zijn regeneratieve remmen, als je weet wat dat is, dat je een deel van de remenergie weer terug omzet in elektriciteit, zodat je minder hoeft te remmen met wrijving, wat betekent dat je dus minder emissie hebt van deeltjes van tegen elkaar wrijvende onderdelen van de auto.

Het komt er dus op neer dat die emissievoordelen voor elektrisch rijden heel groot zijn, en dat geldt ook voor waterstof – fuel cell – auto’s, alleen die hebben het nadeel dat ze nog veel minder ver in ontwikkeling zijn: er zijn minder keuzemogelijkheden, en ze zijn ook nog veel duurder daardoor, en we hadden al het probleem in onze proef dat de beschikbaarheid van elektrische auto’s beperkt was. In het begin hadden we 75 auto’s in plaats van 150 auto’s, want een deel was nog niet beschikbaar omdat ze niet geleverd konden worden.

En het laatste punt is: waarom elektrisch en niet iets anders, dat is dat je niet alles kunt nastreven, je moet op een gegeven moment in je strategie kiezen voor een bepaalde richting en daar dan ook meters in maken, omdat je als je alles probeert, alles een beetje doet, en dan is de kans ook groot dat je geen echte vooruitgang maakt. En als laatste moet ik er even bij zeggen, niet onbelangrijk: we hebben de afgelopen 3,5 jaar een wethouder gehad, Duurzaamheid en Buitenruimte, die zelf, laten we zeggen, het voortouw nam in elektrisch rijden. Ze komt uit de wereld van Essent, daar heeft ze volgens mij in de directie gezeten, en was daar verantwoordelijk voor elektrisch rijden, dus die nam een bruidsschat mee, zeg maar, waar wij niet alleen voordeel van gehad hebben, maar dat heeft wel ook gemaakt dat daar het accent op heeft gelegen.

PK: Vanuit het project dat jullie gedraaid hebben, is daar ook al iets te zeggen over voor welk rijgedrag elektrisch rijden goed geschikt is? Want er werd al wel aangestipt in het projectverslag dat het vooral geschikt is voor kortere ritjes en voor mensen die lang de tijd hebben om te laden. Zijn er al duidelijke toepassingen naar voren gekomen bij de Gemeente waar het goed gebruikt kan worden?

JS: Eigenlijk is het zo dat we als onderdeel van de proef al een selectie hadden gedaan waar we deze auto’s in kunnen zetten op basis van de natte duim, althans, de ervaring van de wagenparkbeheerders, in combinatie met een beetje voorwerk; dus wie zou een gemotiveerde of een te motiveren chauffeur zijn, want je moet natuurlijk beseffen dat je toch iets anders moet gaan rijden. Je moet toch iets anders met je auto omgaan als je elektrisch gaat rijden.

We hebben in de loop van de proef, als onderdeel daarvan, dat is niet heel uitputtend gerapporteerd, daarvoor kun je in het onderliggende rapport terecht, een analyse laten doen van het feitelijk gebruik van de auto’s uit het gemeentelijk wagenpark, of althans een groot deel daarvan via een systeem dat de plaats, de tijd, het brandstofverbruik en dergelijke registreert. En al die gegevens heb ik geanalyseerd en uiteindelijk bepaald wat de statistieken van de dagafstanden zijn. Dus hoeveel is er met elk voertuig per dag gereden om op grond daarvan vast te kunnen stellen of je dat zou kunnen doen met een elektrische auto. Als die ‘s morgens opgeladen was geweest en je kunt bijvoorbeeld 80 km rijden – we hebben nu bijvoorbeeld Nissan Leafs in de proef gehad waarvan de fabrikant zegt dat je er 120 km mee kunt rijden, en dan zijn wij op 80 km gaan zitten – dan hebben we op grond van die analyse geconstateerd dat van de lichte bestelwagens in het gemeentelijk wagenpark, en dat is maar een deel van de proef naast de Stedin en Eneco-wagens, maar dan gaat het alsnog over vele tientallen, minimaal 60% elektrificeerbaar is. Die zouden dus bij vervanging in aanmerking komen voor een elektrische variant.

PK: Is dat ook iets wat de Gemeente Rotterdam de komende jaren gaat doen? Gaat die dat ook daadwerkelijk invoeren?

JS: Een hele goede vraag. Het antwoord daarop is: ja, dat is onze ambitie. In ieder geval voor het komende jaar hebben we nog de middelen om de meerkosten van elektrisch ten opzichte van regulier uit het projectfonds te betalen, en daarna is de hoop en verwachting dat de prijzen ver genoeg gedaald zullen zijn om de minderkosten aan brandstof te laten compenseren wat je aan meerprijs voor een elektrische auto betaalt.

Wel met de beperking dat je dus niet voor elke functie een elektrische auto kunt inzetten. Die beperking blijft er wel.

PK: U noemt de radiusbeperking. Zijn er verder nog onoverkomelijke nadelen van elektrisch rijden?

JS: Er zijn wat voorwaarden. Nadelen, als je het in die termen wilt formuleren. Bijvoorbeeld, hoe ver je kunt rijden, is weersafhankelijk. In de winter, als het -10 is, nog even los van dat je moet zorgen dat de auto bij voorkeur wordt verwarmd via een oplaadpaal, zodat dat niet ten koste gaat van je batterijlading – als je in een verwarmde auto wegrijdt, dan moet je die natuurlijk nog wel warm houden, maar je hoeft ‘m niet meer vanaf -10 tot 20 graden op te stoken – dan beperkt het koude weer dus de batterijcapaciteit en de actieradius. Dat is voor praktisch gebruik wel een bezwaar, want het is niet per se zo dat een seizoensvariatie correspondeert met het gebruik van auto’s. Als je elke dag voor je werk naar Hoek van Holland moet en weer terug, dan is de afstand niet ineens korter als het winter is.

PK: Dus het is voornamelijk dus goed nadenken over waar het in te zetten is en het daar dan ook inzetten, op een slimme manier?

JS: Het gaat dus om die actieradius, die moet je conservatief kiezen, zodat je zeker weet dat dat altijd goed gaat, of vaak genoeg. En dan hebben we natuurlijk wel aanleiding om te zeggen: voor als je een keer een lange afstand moet rijden, of als je geen tijd hebt om ‘m op te laden, dan hebben we een soort terugvaloptie van een andere auto die een grotere range heeft, ofwel een plug-in hybride of een conventionele auto.

PK: Wat zijn tot nu toe de resultaten in de Gemeente Rotterdam: hoeveel elektrische auto’s rijden er rond, hoeveel laadpalen staan er, is er nog de ambitie om het uit te breiden?

JS: Om met dat laatste te beginnen: zeker zolang de huidige wethouder zit, en die zit er nog tot de verkiezingen, is de ambitie zeker om het uit te breiden. Dat zit ook in het programma gebakken, dus we mogen kopen, de middelen ervoor zijn er. Het wordt natuurlijk wel spannend – ik moet even zeggen: de laadpalen met betrekking tot openbare laadpalen, daar is een programma voor, daar is subsidie voor, en voor iedereen die een elektrische auto koopt en niet op eigen terrein kan laden, want heel vaak krijg je een laadpaal van de leverancier erbij en die kun je dan in je eigen garage installeren of op je eigen werkplek. Maar als dat niet gaat – je woont bijvoorbeeld in een appartement en je hebt geen garage – kunnen we je een subsidie toekennen voor een laadpaal bij jou in de straat of in de buurt. En daar is een programma voor; volgens mij tot en met 2014 moeten er 1000 laadpalen komen, dus dat is echt wel een forse ruimte, en de vraag is of er ook wel zo veel auto’s bij zullen komen, maar dat lijkt wel het geval omdat er veel plug-in hybrides nog dit jaar worden verkocht nu nog die bijtellingsregeling geldt: de echt 0% bijtellingsregeling. En psychologisch werkt dat blijkbaar heel sterk, echt 0% bijtelling is veel aantrekkelijker dan 7%, als is dat nog steeds wel een groot verschil ten opzichte van conventionele bijtellingswaarden. Maar de verwachting is wel dat de verkopen daardoor gaan afnemen; laat ik het maar heel neutraal formuleren. En dan zal dus ook de groei, die vrij onstuimig is geweest, zeker dit jaar, naar het eind van het jaar toe, wat zal gaan afvlakken.

En als het gaat om de resultaten met betrekking tot het eigen wagenpark hebben we een soort van doelstelling geformuleerd om 25% van alle voertuigen, dus inclusief de tweewielers, want we hebben natuurlijk ook fietsen en scooters en zo, elektrisch te hebben. Ik moet dus wel zeggen: fietsen tellen mee. Niet dat we elke fiets elektrisch willen hebben, maar een fiets die in dienstverband wordt gebruikt en dus tot het wagenpark gaat behoren, die tellen we wel mee als elektrisch voertuig. Het is in die zin een lastige doelstelling omdat er mede wegens de bezuinigingen een trend is om kritisch te kijken als een auto uit de leasetermijn loopt en er dus vervanging aan de orde is of er überhaupt wel een nieuwe auto aangeschaft moet worden, of laten we het erbij zitten omdat we ook wel met twee auto’s minder toe kunnen? En dat maakt het inderdaad wel lastiger, omdat dat ook zou betekenen dat auto’s langer worden gebruikt en dus niet in het beoogde tempo door elektrisch kunnen worden vervangen. Zelfs al heb je de middelen, dan moet je natuurlijk de rest van de investering ook opbrengen. We hebben namelijk een subsidiemogelijkheid om de meerkosten te compenseren, maar dan moet je nog steeds wel ook de oorspronkelijke investering doen in die nieuwe auto.

PK: Nu heeft u verteld over hoe het bij de Gemeente is, maar er waren ook een aantal andere partners betrokken bij het project. Wat hebben zij gedaan aan aanschaf, aan bijdrage aan het project?

JS: Nou, de opzet is, als het gaat om de wagens uit eigen wagenparken zitten wij gelijkwaardig. Dit zijn allemaal organisaties met een eigen wagenpark en de ambitie om het te verduurzamen. En deze drie partners hadden bij elkaar drie aanvalsgebieden, drie invalshoeken in het project: Stedin meet het verbruik van de netten, Eneco kijkt of ze een business case konden maken voor energieleveranciediensten via laadpalen en de Gemeente kijkt primair naar wat betekent het voor de openbare ruimte als er een grootschalige invoering van elektrisch rijden gaat gebeuren. En in eerste instantie hebben we die ervaring toegepast op de gelijke wagenpark gehaltes, de Gemeente met nog iets meer wagenpark dan Stedin en Eneco, maar bij beiden gaat het nog steeds om tientallen voertuigen. En de monitoring van de laadpalen, bijvoorbeeld, die is vooral de verantwoordelijkheid geweest van Stedin, en Eneco, die heeft verschillende meters gemonteerd op allerlei plaatsen. Stedin zelf heeft nog gemeten in transformatorhuisjes, in distributieruimtes, dus dingen die tot het net behoren maar een beetje uit het zicht van de automobilist zijn, maar wel bepalend zijn. Als namelijk meer dan 10% van de auto’s in een wijk elektrisch zijn, en ze zouden allemaal na thuiskomst van het werk, dus tussen 6 en 7, gaan laden, dan zou dat echt een piek kunnen betekenen die mogelijk niet zou kunnen worden opgevangen door het net. En de monitoring van de voertuigen zelf: een vergelijkbaar percentage voertuigen in alle deelverzamelingen is uitgerust met hoge frequentie sampler, en we hebben gezamenlijk in teamverband de partij die dat geanalyseerd heeft aangestuurd, dus de onderzoeksopdracht omschreven en de resultaten besproken. Dit is ook terug te vinden in het uitgebreidere rapport ten opzichte van de publieksversie die op internet staat.

PK: In het projectrapport zag ik ook de RET bijvoorbeeld staan, en de Rotterdamse Haven. Die hebben ook hun wagenparken deels verduurzaamd, of niet?

JS: Ja, dat klopt. We hebben de term gemeente een beetje ruim geïnterpreteerd, ook om aan het gewenste aantal auto’s te komen in de gevraagde tijd. Dus een beetje praktische kant zat er wel aan. Maar de Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram en de Haven zijn natuurlijk wel bedrijven die historisch gezien nog steeds eigenlijk bij de gemeente horen, ook qua eigendom, bij beide is de Gemeente meerderheids aandeelhouder, dus ze zijn eigenlijk toch een soort van gemeentelijk bedrijf. Dus dat was zeker te rechtvaardigen, en ook in andere opzichten werken we veel samen met die beide partijen in het Rotterdam Climate Initiative, dus in bredere zin duurzaamheids- klimaatsdoelstellingen realiseren, emissiebeperking, dus dat waren eigenlijk hele logische partners om in de bedrijfsvoering onder andere de mobiliteit waar mogelijk te verduurzamen.

PK: En hebben zij ook inspraak in het beleid van de gemeente; oefenen zij daar ook invloed op uit?

JS: Invloed is er natuurlijk altijd als je met partijen praat. Het Havenbedrijf is in dat opzicht ook een wat krachtiger partner omdat die meer geld te makken hebben, zal ik maar even zeggen. De openbaar vervoersbusiness is er toch in feite eentje die een openbaar belang dient, een soort nutsvoorziening zou je kunnen zeggen, en dan moet er dus geld van de overheid bij. Ze hebben een concessie, ze worden betaald om de ov-dienstregeling te doen. Ze hebben wel een zekere handelingsvrijheid om te bepalen met welk wagenpark, met welke monteurswagens en zo zij bijvoorbeeld het netwerk voor de tram en metro onderhouden. Maar er moet geld bij elke ov-kilometer worden bijgelegd, dus in die zin hebben ze niet een winst die ze ergens in kunnen steken. Maar bij het Havenbedrijf wel, en dat geldt natuurlijk twee kanten op: als je zelfstandiger bent, kun je natuurlijk ook meer je eigen koers varen. En dan hoef je niet per se op alle punten de gemeente te volgen. Uiteraard zijn er natuurlijk terreinen, ik noem maar iets als bestemmingsplannen, die gemeentelijke verantwoordelijkheid zijn, en daar moet het Havenbedrijf het gemeentelijk gezag erkennen, maar aan de andere kant zijn ze natuurlijk met opzet ook zelfstandig gemaakt, om als bedrijf beter te kunnen functioneren, om de bedrijvigheid in de haven optimaal te kunnen ondersteunen en ontwikkelen.

PK: We hebben nu een aantal partners genoemd; zijn deze allemaal even belangrijk voor het project, of dragen sommige partijen meer bij dan andere?

JS: Ik denk dat ze wel vergelijkbaar belangrijk zijn, dus dat wil zeggen dat ze toch wel het imago van de stad mede bepalen; je zet toch iets als een voorbeeld als bedrijf, en als de overheid de private sector wil stimuleren om duurzame mobiliteit tot mainstream te maken, moet ze zelf goed voorbeeldgedrag vertonen. En het Havenbedrijf en de RET zijn erg aanwezige partijen in de stad, dus als die het duurzaamheidsdoel etaleren dan draagt dat zeker bij, maar het punt is natuurlijk wel dat het merendeel van de kilometers in de regio en in de stad niet worden gemaakt door die drie partijen, maar door de bedrijven en particulieren. En daar zit de mainstream, dus daar moet het vooral gaan gebeuren. Ons beleid is voorlopig nog gericht op de zakelijke auto’s, dus de eerste logische stap lijkt dat bedrijven gestimuleerd worden om elektrisch of vergelijkbaar emissie-arm te rijden. Maar er is zeker ook binnen de vloot van bijvoorbeeld het havenbedrijf of de RET nog het nodige te winnen. En bussen kunnen natuurlijk. Er zijn een paar experimentele bussen volledig elektrisch of op een waterstofcel. Die bussen rijden niet hier, maar in Amsterdam of in andere steden. Hybride bussen wel, daarvoor hebben we een project bij de RET. En ten dele is niet de hele vloot hybride omdat het te duur is en ten dele omdat het project ook dient om de beperkingen en de mogelijkheden van die bussen te leren kennen, zodat je weet of je ze überhaupt volledig in kunt zetten, of dat je ze toch, gegeven de technische mogelijkheden, op die lijn wel en op die lijn niet in moet zetten.

PK: U geeft aan dat het de bedoeling is om het allemaal uit te breiden naar bedrijven. Denkt u dat Stedin en Eneco ook voorlopig elektrische auto’s blijven gebruiken?

JS: Voorzover ik het van ze begrepen heb – we hebben met het projectteam dit project gedraaid, en dat was uiteraard met mensen die zelf gemotiveerd waren voor elektrisch rijden, en ze hebben ook meegereden in elektrische auto’s allemaal, maar uiteindelijk wordt de beslissing hierover door de directie genomen, omdat er ook een financiële kant aan zit – blijft er voorlopig belangstelling in elektrisch rijden, alhoewel ik hier verder geen directiebeslissing over heb gezien. Maar dat is ook logisch, zeker bij Stedin, omdat ze die met die implicaties voor het net te maken blijven krijgen.

En voor Eneco geldt dat ze ambitie op het gebied van oplaaddiensten niet hebben opgegeven; ze hebben hem wel aangepast op basis van ervaringen in de proef, maar ze zijn nog steeds leverancier van oplaadservice.

En bij hun eigen wagenpark denk ik dat ze minder snel dan de gemeente tot uitbreiding van hun elektrische vloot zullen overgaan. Plug-in hybrides zie ik overigens wel tot de mogelijkheden behoren, zeker omdat daar ook veel meer privé leaserijders zijn dan bij de gemeente; het komt eigenlijk maar relatief weinig voor dat er prive leaseauto’s bij een bepaalde functie horen. Dan heb je het echt over de bovenkant van de piramide, en die is relatief smal in vergelijking. Het merendeel van de auto’s waar we het over hebben waren echt beroepsauto’s van monteurs en landmeters en dat soort mensen.

PK: Een vraag over de laadpalen. Zijn deze door Eneco geplaatst, of door de gemeente?

JS: De openbare palen hebben niets met dit project te maken, maar zijn een ander onderdeel van het programma Rotterdam Elektrisch. De palen die we in dit project hebben gebruikt, zijn laadpalen op de werkplekken, bij de Gemeente, Stedin of Eneco, en bij de medewerkers thuis. En die zijn, als onderdeel van de projectafspraak, allemaal door Eneco geplaatst. Dat was een eerdere versie, een prototype, NRGSpot genoemd. Daar zijn ze ze nu dus van af, ze hebben besloten om met een andere externe leverancier te gaan werken; ze gaan ze niet meer in eigen beheer maken. Maar in de proef heeft Eneco alle palen geleverd, en ze zijn geplaatst en geïnstalleerd. Maar voor de gemeente hebben we bijvoorbeeld ook een kleine vrachtwagen elektrisch uitgeprobeerd in de proef, een Iveco Daily Electric, en om die te laden – er zat een veel grotere accu in – binnen acceptabele tijd moest er een dubbel zo grote aansluiting komen. En ironisch genoeg was dat op een plek die net nieuw gebouwd was, helemaal energetisch en duurzaam verantwoord, zodat er dus een hele kleine stroomtoevoer voor nodig was, maar die moest alsnog vervangen worden door een hele zware leiding, omdat we die dubbele laadpaal daar moesten installeren. Dus dat waren onverwachte kosten waar je dan ook tegenaan loopt, die je in je kostenplaatje moet meenemen. Dat was voor ons wel een belangrijke les ook. Dus als een leverancier een laadpaal meelevert, ben je nog niet per se al klaar.

PK: U gaf ook aan dat Stedin een bepaalde piek had opgemerkt als meerdere mensen tegelijk probeerden om hun auto op te laden. Nu is dat deels op te lossen met smart grids. Gaat daar ook nog in geïnvesteerd worden?

JS: Ja, dat is ook te lezen in de publieksversie van de rapportage. Wat een van de directeuren daar aangeeft, is: “Wij hopen dat de consument ook zijn verantwoordelijkheid wil nemen om zijn deel van de piek op te vangen”, en dat wil dan zeggen dat er ook lokaal wordt geproduceerd. En dat kun je dus proberen door te zorgen dat je zonnepanelen hebt, of een windmolen, maar dat is wat onhandig in een stedelijke omgeving om te helpen die pieken af te vlakken. En elk zonnepaneel in de wijk helpt natuurlijk, ook van de mensen die zelf geen elektrische auto hebben.

—————-Hier volgde enige informatie-verstrekking over het project en de opleiding————–


PK: Ik ben door mijn vragen heen. Ik wil u hartelijk bedanken voor het interview, en stuur u uiteraard de resultaten.


JS: Ik ben benieuwd! En mocht er nog een nabrander zijn qua vragen, mail of bel dan even.

Mind experiments and creating opportunities in manufacturing Businesses

Mind experiments and creating opportunities in manufacturing Businesses

Do thought experiments help us understand the world? On the basis of at least three different thought experiments, we discuss the strengths and limitations of this method using philosophical background information. Having found these strengths and weakness (limitations) we will extend this question to whether thought experiments can help us in a modern manufacturing business context.



In this philosophical paper, I will address the importance of thought experimentations and the limitations. Three different thought experiments will be given as an concrete example of thought experiments. I will dive into the material from philosophers who have contributed to mind experiments along with additional backgrounds to explain whether thought experiments can help us to understand the world. I believe that the world around us is driven by technology. Moreover, a society is defined by its technological achievements. However, knowledge is becoming widely available due to the internet. Whereas a few hundred years ago knowledge was only obtainable locally through books or expert. Now people can find information on the internet in a snap.

This introduces a few interesting problems to think about: when gaining knowledge there are several methods e.g. looking something up on the internet or experiment yourself. In this sense when not always having the tools around you have to improvise in many situations to gain knowledge.

I will question in this paper whether mind experiments can contribute to understanding of our world in which we live in driven by technology and if we can apply usage for business context such as creating opportunities. I will particularly focus on designing a product or creating out-of-the-box solutions.


In a SWOT analysis we can combine strengths en weaknesses (internal) from a business and also compare treats and opportunities (external factors). In finding useful information about whether mind experiments can help us in business we are going to analyze common internal and external weakness within businesses. I will use for this methodology an analysis of internal strength en weaknesses in today’s businesses by looking at the role of physical-technical and social factors in design . Once we have found common strength en weakness we can combine them with characteristics of mind experiments. Due to the nature of an mind experiment I propose that a mind experiment can be seen as a ‘virtual’ (external) asset. There for we can characterize them with opportunities and threats which we can combine in a SWOT model. Ultimately, I will confront the strength and weakness with the opportunities and treats of mind experiments (confrontation matrix) so that they can maybe give us powerful insight of using thought experiments as a way of not achieving practical knowledge, but also gaining creativity or understanding our world better. This above introduction leads us to the below questions.

Our main research question is

Q.1 Do thought experiments help us understand the world and can they contribute to business?

On the basis of at least three different thought experiments, we discuss the strengths and limitations of this method. Mind experiments differ quite from thinking in ‘words’ so I first will address some limitations in thinking only in words and what kind of limitation this leads us too. Secondly, I will dive into thought experiments.

Sub question two can now be formulated
What are thought experiments? (we are looking here for concepts, descriptions, methods)

  • I give three example thought experiments, using material on philosophers and their view on thought experiments.
    • Which philosophers (may have) contributed to the concept of thought experiment’s? What were their characteristics and perspective?
    • Example of thought experiments that may have contributed to the understanding of our world?
  • Once we have the characteristics I will explain and discuss the strengths and limitations of this method.
    • Strength: does it actually contributes to the user or anyone who participate in thought experiments in general?

Q.2 Business case
Once we have found out strengths and limits we can confront them with common business problems. I will combine theory mentioned in Philosophy of Technology by Pieter Vermaas and give pre-assumptions about strength and weaknesses in business.

Confronting strengths and limitations in business will lead us: How can we use thought experiments in business?

Below is the full operationalization proposal which should form an analysis framework to find out whether mind experiments can contribute. I will explain strategic choices and operationalization for manufacturing companies.


1. Philosophers and thought experiments history

According to Boorsboom et all (2002) et all thought experiments can fulfill a specific function within theory but quite often they are used because it is impossible to run an experiment in a real world scenario.
We visualize a certain situation and think of a important operation, this allows us to raise new questions (and we see what happens) and we draw a conclusion.
We can classify thought experiments for convenience by the type of use. There are multiple types of thought experiments but the main division is destructive vs. constructive.
In the case for destructive most of the time thought experiments draw out a contradiction in theory, thereby refuting it. A second type is that thought experiments aim to show that theory in question cannot be merged with other theories. For example mind experiments about paradoxes. There is also a third type of negative thought experiment where a central thought of the thought experiment itself is undermined. Last we have a counter thought experiment which tries to find arguments why a though experiment would not work.

Karl Popper however has distinguished three types of thought experiments. Heuristic (which is meant to illustrate a theory) Critical (against a theory) and apologetic (in favor of a theory).

Through history it is very much likely that since the time of the Pre-Socratics thought experiments have been practiced. They emphasized thought experimentation as a cognitive procedure and practiced it with great dedication and versatility.” Moreover, it seems that medieval science relied rather on thought experiments than real-world experiments (King, 1991).
The 17th century saw some of its most brilliant practitioners in Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz And in our own time, the creation of quantum mechanics (see Kühne, 2005, pp. 280–317) and relativistic physics (see e.g. Brown, 1987) are almost unthinkable without the crucial function of thought experiments

1.2. Analysis three cases of thought experiments and their characteristics

I have selected three thought experiments to use in the case. I will explain the thought experiments and sum up strengths and limitations. I have chosen thought experiments from different kinds of categories such as physics, mathematics and ethical thought experiment so that any judgment is not based on thought experiments from selecting one kind of category.


The infinite monkey theorem (mathematics)

The infinite monkey theorem is a thought experiment where we imagine a situation where we have an infinite number of monkeys to hit random keys on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time. Now imagine the monkeys doing this. The above picture illustrates this, then at some point it is stated that they can produce the complete works of Shakespeare.
This idea was popularized in the early 20th century by Emile Borel, a French mathematician.

What is the purpose of this thought experiment?

This thought experiment addresses well the nature of infinity. For many people it is hard to get a grasp on what infinity means or what it can produce. In this experiment the ‘random function’ is also very important. The random function is here illustrated with the monkeys typing random keys. (They produce letters and symbols at random).
This thought experiment helps to illustrate the possibilities of a simple concept and what will produced.
Note that the possibility would be very small to have the entire work of Shake Spear created in the real world. In 2003 science students in the UK tested the infinite monkey theorem when they put a computer and a typewriter in the zoo, allowing primates to type on it. Unfortunately the primates were only able to produces a few pages with the letters on it. Although in real world not possible, further research was done and with computer simulator (software) it was actually possible to get a sentence produced. (We talk here about recreating infinite time and infinite monkeys and infinite random typing by using a software which can simulate monkey randomly typing)

Strengths in the infinite monkey theorem

In this experiment it is easy to imagine what a world of infiniteness may produce

The monkey is here a replacement for an abstract device that produces an endless random sequence of symbols and letters. (think of a random function in a computer but infinite)

ü It therefor has the benefit of reduce complexity to something simple.

They replace function (random) by something people can imagine.

ü Everything is possible with when we have infinite time and infinite random access to a production of randomness in any form.

Although this seems as an eye-opener we will further use this strength later on.

Limitations in the infinite monkey theorem

Limitations in this experiment are for example the scenario of monkeys actually writing or producing something. It was interesting that the experiment was tried in real life (and did not work) therefor this thought experiment should only be used for it function namely explain the effect of infinity and random producing.

  • Should be use according it function what it tries to explain, imaginary it works, when tried in reality not. You should then substitute or simulate.

The Spider in the Urinal (ethics)

The spider in the urinal is a somewhat disturbing thought experiment. It was introduced in the essay of Thomas Nagel (1986) “Birth, Death and the meaning of life”. It describes the issues of non-interference and the meaningfulness of life. He gained a new insight when he saw a sad little spider living in the urinal of a men’s bathroom at the Princeton. The spider was obvious peed on sitting there in the urinal and Nagel thought that he could make his life happier by giving him another habitat outside the urinal. (Because he was trapped by the smooth surface of the porcelain and the wide overhang). There was obvious no way that he could tell that he wanted to go out, but life inside the urinal did look awful according Nagel.

So one day at the end of the term he took a paper towel and extended it to the little spider. The spider gasped with his legs on the towel and he put the spider on the floor.

Thinking that he would be fine now, the spider just sat there without moving a muscle. Nagel nudged him a bit with the towel but still nothing happened. When Nagel came back after a couple of hours he still hadn’t moved.

The next day Nagel found him at the same place his legs shriveled in the way of characteristic of dead spiders. His corpse laid there for a while after he finally got swept away.

Strengths The Spider in the Urinal

This thought experiment focuses on the quality of animal lives but also forces us to think of our own life’s. The thought experiment was meant to express that it is highly debatable what anyone really wants. (you can never surely know). Secondly, how do our lives do any other good?

  • This thought experiment allows us to experiment with policies of intervention. We might have best intentions but interference can sometimes inflict harm.
  • Sometimes inaction can be morally problematic.

This thought experiment forces us to consider the quality and meaningfulness of not just animal lives, but our own as well. How can we ever know what anyone really wants? And do our lives actually do us any good? It also forces us to question our policies of intervention. Despite our best intentions, interference can sometimes inflict unanticipated harm.


This is quite an interesting thought experiment since it has a small contrast with real life situation. The thought experiment is derived from something that can actually happen, whether it is a spider or something else. However in this case there might be an inaccurate problem of selecting the problem itself. The spider was in this case found dead but it was not told if someone stepped on him, not splashing him but accidentally squashed him a little bit and therefor he died the next day. So there is a problem of selecting here but again for the purpose of explaining Nagel used this as an concrete example.

  • Selection problem

Newton’s canon ball (physics)

The newton’s cannonball (Principia Mathematica) is a thought experiment in physics which visualizes how a cannon ball can get into orbit around earth. The experiment illustrates a canon from the top of a mountain which fires a cannonball at a certain speed.
Now if we assume that there are no other forces such as gravitation or air resistance then in theory the cannonball should follow a straight line in the direction it was fired (away from earth).
However, if the gravitational force acts on the fired cannonball it will of course follow a different path depending on its initial velocity. In addition to that if the speed is too low then the cannonball will fall back to earth.

Now imagine that the initial speed is higher than the orbital velocity, but not high enough to leave earth altogether (lower than the escape velocity) it will continue revolving around earth and it will enter an elliptical orbit.

If the speed is low, it will simply fall back on earth.

Strengths of Newton’s cannonball

This thought experiment combines real world physics with objects that are imaginary. A canon ball will never shoot a ball at the speed so that it will leave the earth atmosphere. But the imaginary function of that it can is very powerful. Newton did not limit himself to technology that wasn’t there yet, but thought of “what if” the technology was there. It is therefore an extension of what could be there and a motivation to assume that an object will fall into an elliptical orbit.

The Newton’s cannon ball will later be a good concept of shooting satellites into orbit so the model proves to be handy even a few hundred years later.

  • Although speed couldn’t be measured at the time the model shows us that by variation of speed the elliptical orbit could be determined.
  • Although technology did not exist for shooting anything into space basic behavior of objects were explained (elliptical orbit)


  • The model illustrates the orbit but not the calculations which is obvious but a strength and a weakness. It is a great example of the “aha” effect without showing actual math.

From here we can ask ourselves do thought experiments help us understand the word?
Well I think they can. They can help us understand the world without having to know everything. The mind simply fills in what concepts may apply. From a language and problem solving perspective Philosophers see a proper understanding in our language as the key to solve many philosophical problems which I think is an important thing when using mind experiments.
These problems were mainly focused on what is the nature of meaning? Or e.g. what is the relation between language and reality? However they also emphasize what the relation is between language and thought (cognition) and what is the relation between meaning and use or meaning and context in language. Therefor interpretation about the world is also constituted in language and thought experiments help us to understand the world.

Frege (1948-1925) and Russell tried to analyze phrases in natural languages into a formal logic.

While this essay on thought experiments does not focus on the logic of natural languages, I do want to point out that language can be seen as important to express the relation between language and reality and thought experiments using both, in other words language and thought can be assumed to be conflated to express the world so they help us understand the world.

Having said this, there are many ways how we can describe our world and the nature of things. For example we can simply describe our world with “words, sentences, languages” but from here we learned that there are also other ways such as graphics and context and also in addition we can have ‘though experiments’.
When we look at problem solving we can use logic. However, there is a difference in everyday reasoning and the logical systems devised from logicians. A great deal of everyday thinking is practical, intuitive and emotional whereas thinking in formal logic requires a lot more training and is therefore less intuitive.

Now that we have found strengths and weaknesses or (limitations) I ask myself whether these strengths can be useful in business. Manufacturing companies tend to have difficulties in creating innovative solutions or products which is introduces in the first part of this paper. As today’s society is strongly technology I would like to know how thought experiments may help us with problem solving in a philosophical context but also in business context for example in product design and manufacturing. Below is a summary of the results that we have found until here:


  • It therefor has the benefit of reduce complexity to something simple.
  • They replace function (random) by something people can imagine.
  • Everything is possible with when we have infinite time and infinite random access to a production of randomness in any form.


  • This thought experiment allows us to experiment with policies of intervention. We might have best intentions but interference can sometimes inflict harm.
  • Sometimes inaction can be morally problematic.
  • Although speed couldn’t be measured at the time the model shows us that by variation of speed the elliptical orbit could be determined.
  •  Although technology did not exist for shooting anything into space basic behavior of objects were explained.


  • Should be use according it function what it tries to explain, imaginary it works, when tried in reality not. You should then substitute or simulate
  • Selection problem
  • The model illustrates the orbit but not the calculations which is obvious but a strength and a weakness. It is a great example of the “aha” effect without showing actual math.

2 Product Design philosophy

This part will look briefly to problems in designing products and manufacturing problems. I look at factors a stated in philosophy of technology from technical artifacts to social technical. The below figure illustrates that there is tension between physical-technical and contextual boundary conditions.

As Pieter Vermaas et all (2011) states requirements have to be the primary function of an technical artifact, the use, production, maintenance, market (price), financing technical standards and norms. Etcetera.
Also he states that what lies hidden behind each of these boundary conditions are the respective interested parties (stakeholder).

Obviously, we cannot look at all factors involved in business therefor I look at the most valuable factor which is creating competitive advantage.

As mentioned in the introduction knowledge becomes more obtainable through internet. Therefor I think that there is a swift in applying this knowledge. Manufactures are characterized mostly depended on resources to in order to manipulate and object (designing). In other words without any resources a company cannot sell. This leads to a weakness of production companies. Secondly financial weakness are very common. In order to manufacture goods a company has to buy these resources such as equipment, assets, facilities and materials to operate. Activities have to be therefore sufficient to operate your business in order to pay loans or doing business .

High costs of doing business and limited cash flow are among common financial weaknesses. In some industries, you need expensive equipment, assets, facilities and materials to operate. A lack of access to loans or equity investments is a related weakness. If your business activities don’t generate substantial monthly cash inflow to overcome your costs of doing business, you face a major uphill climb in generating profit. Some companies struggle therefor with quality issues or having enough (technological) know how. Outdated technology can inhibit innovation and design and prevent designers from differentiating products that will stand out from competitors.

However, in many manufacturing industries markets have to be stable , although demands can highly fluctuate with ups and downs of the economy.

Production inefficiencies are also very important to keep in mind. Production has to be efficient and optimized to make profit. A weakness of low productive can be improved with staff motivation and more efficient equipment or production processes.

Last but not least we find poor brand image. If your brand is considered weak you will not gain lot attention in media and it is difficult to generate sales activity. A poor brand can for example result from a poor design or service, lack of market budget or poorly promotional strategies.

Overall we can state the below four weaknesses

  • Financial Weaknesses
  • Quality Concerns
  • Production Inefficiencies
  • Poor Brand Image

3. Operationalization and conclusion

Having addressed the strengths and weaknesses of manufacturing business we can combine them with logics to create strategies. In a confrontation matrix we can combine the strengths weakness and threats and opportunities. By using the SWOT we can construct the confrontation matrix in order to build new strategies. Rolf Oostra, S. S. (2006)

These strategies are formed by below combinations according Rolf Oostra.

  • (weakness + threat ) = strategy to improve
  • (weakness + opportunity) = strategy to transform
  • (strength + opportunity) = strategy to grow


Implementing the strategies

Through this paper we have found different kinds of strengths and limits of mind experiments, but arguments can be combined to create business opportunities. This follows out the confrontation matrix.
For example in the thought experiment of the infinite monkey theory complexity is reduced to something simple. This can be perfectly combined with a strength such as strong skill base, by focusing on reducing complexity in thinking and also having the assumption that “everything” is possible companies can think “out of the box”. This seems to be a very obvious statement however many companies do not apply these thoughts therefor not creating unique products as mentioned before which can heavily reduce quality. Also policies of invention help us to react fast, combined with skills this can be a good strategy to grow. Last but not least having to reduce calculations in manufacturing (elimination for example risk management) you can focus on creating skill and new ways to grow.

When we look at transforming strategies though experiments we can combine production efficiencies with everything is possible concept. This is a perfect combination of transforming the production process, eliminating possible factors which can hold up production. By not looking at what is impossible but focus on processes it allows the question “what if”. For example imagine a company producing electric cars and people say we don’t have the technology to produce cars that can have long distance due to battery efficiency. Then the company can decide to just manufacture the car anyway assuming that the technology will be ready later to travel long distances. In this way the company can gain competitive advantage by thinking ahead of its competitors. While everybody else is tackling the long distance problem). This show that also mind experiments can lead companies forward and allow them to transform quickly.

Last but not least quality concerns production inefficiencies , poor branding can be due to selecting problems which can form a threat. In this case a strategy would be to improve concepts an look at how selection is made in ideas of the company. Assumption therefor always need to be improved.

In this essay I have tried to explain that thought experiments can help us understand the world by focusing on experiments in thoughts and therefor creating valuable assets by combining concepts of mind. I also would like to emphasize to my view that thought experiments can be essential not only in understanding the technological world around us but also can be useful in manufacturing businesses to think for example “out of the box”. They form possible building blocks to grow allowing a company to improve, transform or grow which is a very powerful way of thinking, creating and generating new ideas even in a business context.


Frege and Russell. Retrieved 22 October, 2013 from

Vermaas, Pieter et all (2011) A Philosophy of Technology- From artifacts to Sociotechnical systems, Morgan & Claypool Publishers

René Descartes (1596—1650): Overview. Retrieved 22 October, 2013 from

Thought Experiments. Retrieved 22 October, 2013 from

Top 10 Most Famous Thought Experiments. Retrieved 12 October, 2013 from

T. Nagel, the view from nowhere,1987,Oxford university press.

Gravity and Newton’s Cannon. Retrieved 22 October, 2013 from

SWOT Analysis of Manufacturing Industry. Retrieved 8 November,

Examples of Company Weaknesses . Retrieved 3 November, 2013

Pre-Logic, Formal Logic, Dialectical Logic, Retrieved 8 November

Rolf Oostra, S. S. (2006). Handboekstrategische Marketing. Utrecht/Zutphen: ThiemeMeulenhoff.

Research in Technology – Past, Present, Future