Spontaneous emergence versus technology management in sustainable mobility transitions: Electric bicycles in China

Peter Wells*, Xiao Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes and seeks to understand the scale of the electric bicycle (electric two-wheeler) market in China, and to begin to explain its emergence with a view to outlining the prospects for learning from this case for applications in other countries around the world. Drawing on secondary data from Chinese government sources, electric bicycle industry websites, Chinese media sites and other sources, this exploratory paper positions the development of the electric bicycle market as occurring largely in the absence of positive policy intervention - in stark contrast to the nurturing afforded the electric car sector world-wide. The paper develops a multi-scalar perspective of transitions theory in an institutional setting, with examples drawn from Beijing and Fuzhou, to explain the processes of change outside of the traditional reference context of technology policy and management. It is concluded that transitions theory has a greater flexibility and adaptability as an explanatory framework than previously shown, but empirically the electric two-wheeler is a weakly-embedded alternative to mainstream automobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-383
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Early online date23 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Beijing
  • China
  • Electric bicycles
  • New energy vehicles
  • Socio-technical change
  • Transport policy

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