In the socio-technical transitions literature, local niche projects have been described as sources of knowledge, experience, actor networks, and (positive) expectations. Local niches and local designs can however also become stumbling blocks when local designs are non-compatible with an emerging global standard. In this paper we study the emergence of standards for electric vehicle recharging plugs to answer the question whether and how local niches and their outcomes may hamper the process of niche aggregation. Our analysis shows that distinct local recharging plug standards have emerged for both regular and fast charging. Especially the standards for regular charging are clearly designed to comply with local regime rules and that these rules have thus prevented the development of a global standard. With our analysis we show that the local context may indeed be so intrusive that it inscribes itself irreversibly in technical designs and standards and hence lead to local lock-ins that prevent further aggregation. Even more so, we recognize a tension between the need for local niche projects to comply with local rules and the need for the global niche to break free from such local rules in order to define universal designs instead.
Bakker, S., Leguijt, P., & van Lente, H. (2015). Niche accumulation and standardization: the case of electric vehicle recharging plugs. Journal of Cleaner Production, 94, 155-164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.01.069