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Overcoming barriers to adoption of environmentally-friendly innovations through design and strategy: Learning from the failure of an electric vehicle infrastructure firm

Michael Naor (Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA, AND Azrieli College of Engineering, Jerusalem, Israel)
Ednilson S. Bernardes (West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA)
Cheryl T Druehl (Department of Information Systems and Operations Management, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Yoram Shiftan (Technion, Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Haifa, Israel)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore how a company which developed an environmentally friendly innovation attempted to address diffusion issues. Specifically, the purpose is to describe the ways in which an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure company, in partnership with a major car manufacturer, tried to address barriers to diffusion of an environmentally friendly innovation during the development stage to improve the likelihood of success and lessons learned from its failure.


The authors explore a single instrumental case of an Israeli company that developed infrastructure for EVs in partnership with a major automaker. The authors collected data using a series of semi-structured interviews at the companies’ headquarters, through direct observation in the company, and through the examination of archival and secondary data sources.


The authors find that the company tried to incorporate design features in both the product and organization to address key diffusion barriers identified through survey and consumer focus research. The study maps product/service design innovations for infrastructure that combined with multi-stage organizational diffusion strategies for EVs, were used to address both functional (usage, value, and risk) and psychological (tradition and image) barriers for mass-market adoption.

Practical implications

The study provides insights on how to incorporate information about barriers to adoption into product/service design and on the development of organizational-level diffusion strategy to address changes of customer’s behavior required by certain innovative sustainable solutions. In addition, the authors speculate potential causes for more recent developments with the technology that can serve as a lesson for future projects.


Past studies have advanced the knowledge about issues surrounding the adoption and diffusion of EVs. The study expands this stream of research by focussing on product/service and organizational strategy design and by illustrating, through an empirical exploratory case study, how a company attempted to overcome these obstacles. The authors advance various propositions and point out potential exciting avenues for future research on the dissemination of environmentally friendly innovations.



The authors would like to thank Inbal Sternberg-Fried, Better Place Global Environmental Manager, for her helpful comments and suggestions during the case study research.


Naor, M., Bernardes, E.S., Druehl, C.T. and Shiftan, Y. (2015), "Overcoming barriers to adoption of environmentally-friendly innovations through design and strategy: Learning from the failure of an electric vehicle infrastructure firm", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 26-59.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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