Public policies, electrification and electric vehicle adoption: A comparative case study of Chicago

Sångsalen Session 4: Structured by the State – infrastructure and communication in the era of industrialization organized by Björn Hasselgren and Jan Ottosson


Josef Taalbi, Alexandra López Cermeño


This paper explores how policy changes affected the resilience of automobile manufacturers clusters in the early 20th century US. Although we know that the electric vehicle lost its share of the market by the 1910s, more successful electric vehicle clusters survived longer in specific areas, for example in Chicago. This research paper delves into what made Chicago stand out in terms of electric vehicle adoption as compared to similar cities. While electricity grids appear to have mattered greatly in promoting electric vehicle adoption, preliminary results suggest that infrastructural preconditions alone cannot explain the differences. Using quantitative and qualitative evidence we build a narrative of the key factors that explain Chicago’s long run electric vehicle adoption. We discuss potential lessons for policy, industrial organization, and infrastructure planning.


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