Business models for sustainable technologies: exploring business model evolution in the case of electric vehicles

René Bohnsack, Jonatan Pinkse*, Ans Kolk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

304 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sustainable technologies challenge prevailing business practices, especially in industries that depend heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Firms are therefore in need of business models that transform the specific characteristics of sustainable technologies into new ways to create economic value and overcome the barriers that stand in the way of their market penetration. A key issue is the respective impact of incumbent and entrepreneurial firms' path-dependent behaviour on the development of such new business models. Embedded in the literature on business models, this paper explores how incumbent and entrepreneurial firms' path dependencies have affected the evolution of business models for electric vehicles. Based on a qualitative analysis of electric vehicle projects of key industry players over a five-year period (2006-2010), the paper identifies four business model archetypes and traces their evolution over time. Findings suggest that incumbent and entrepreneurial firms approach business model innovation in distinctive ways. Business model evolution shows a series of incremental changes that introduce service-based components, which were initially developed by entrepreneurial firms, to the product. Over time there seems to be some convergence in the business models of incumbents and entrepreneurs in the direction of delivering economy multi-purpose vehicles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-300
Number of pages17
JournalResearch Policy
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Business models
  • Electric vehicles
  • Evolution
  • Path dependencies
  • Sustainable technology

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