Date published:

Clean vehicles powered by dirty electricity? Paradoxes of the electric mobility development in Poland

Aleksandra Lis, Rafał Szymanowski, Greening Polish transportation? Untangling the nexus between electric mobility and a carbon-based regime, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 83, 2022, 102336, ISSN 2214-6296,

DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2021.102336

We are on the cusp of a global revolution in new mobility and sustainable transportation. Trends such as electric vehicles, car-sharing and micro mobility (such as bicycles or scooters) are taking the largest agglomerations in highly developed countries by storm, in places like Toronto, San Francisco, Oslo, Amsterdam and Berlin. However, if these changes are to affect the total level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate the planetary climate crisis, then new solutions in the field of low-emission transportation must also spread to catching-up economies, whose energy systems are still based on fossil fuels.

In this article, the authors representing the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism draw on the multi-level perspective (MLP) in energy transition studies in combination with historical institutionalism (HI) in political science, to reconstruct three pathways of electric mobility’ development in Poland. This research uses a two-pronged, mixed-method empirical approach that uses primary written sources and semi-structured expert interviews with key actors in the field.

This publication shows the untold history of the development of new technologies and new markets, dating back to the early 1990s, when Polish companies began to experiment with breakthrough solutions for low-emission transport. The study illustrates that the transformation towards e-mobility is embedded in the existing energy regime of a given country, which in the case of Poland means a high dependence on coal in electricity production and difficulties in breaking away of the fossil fuel regime, both in the energy sector and transport. Results show that while successful and innovative solutions can indeed occur at the semi-periphery of the global economy, often, rather than improving the quality of life and mobility locally, these technologies contribute to green transformation in other parts of the world.