Rienks, H. (2023): The rollout of public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the Netherlands: Innovation and Infrastructure. An ex-post analysis.  National Case Study of the 4i-TRACTION Deliverable D2.6. Wageningen University. Berlin

The Rollout of Public Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles in the Netherlands – Innovation and Infrastructure

This case study analyses the role of the Dutch central government in the rapid rollout of the public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the Netherlands.

During the 2009 - 2020 period, the Netherlands has seen a rapid growth in the rollout of public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs). Both in terms of quantity and quality of public charging points, the Netherlands is a clear frontrunner in Europe. This case study analyses the role of the Dutch central government in this rapid rollout. The lessons learned from this case study may also provide more general insights into how governments can promote the adaptation of green innovations.

Main Results
The study is based on desk research and 11 expert interviews who have together more than 110 years of experience in the EV industry. The experts identified 61 obstacles encountered during the rollout. These obstacles are structured using innovation theories, namely a novel adjusted Technological Innovation System (TIS) framework and the linear model of innovation. The rollout of public charging infrastructure in the Netherlands can be described in three phases:

2009 – 2012: Development of a proof of concept.
The most important obstacle in this period was related to overcoming a lock-in effect, in which a lack of public charging infrastructure hindered the adoption of EVs, and vice versa. One side of this lock-in problem was solved when a public sector organisation started installing the first 3.000 charging points across the Netherlands. The central government mainly played a role in addressing the other side of the lock-in problem, by promoting EV adoption through financial incentives. Apart from these financial incentives, the central government created few other policies directly related to charging infrastructure.

2012 – 2015: Start of commercial use through pilots and demonstrations.
During this second period, the main obstacles were related to a lack of basic infrastructure and (informal) institutions to enable a sufficiently large market for public charging infrastructure. Central government policy aimed at these obstacles included, for example, supporting research on how to structure the market for (semi-)public infrastructure. However, much of the innovation power came from self-regulation by companies and large metropolitan municipalities.

2015 – 2020: Upscaling.
During the upscaling period, some regions in the Netherlands (mainly urban areas) reached a relatively mature market for charging infrastructure. However, in other (rural) areas, the rollout of the public charging infrastructure was still very limited. Policies of the central government policy aimed to correct this by providing support to (smaller) municipalities. However, most of the work was done by the municipalities themselves.

We conclude that the policies of the central government alone do not explain the rapid rollout of public charging infrastructure in the Netherlands. Other public sector organisations, such as large municipalities, played a more direct role in this rollout, and experts see them as more important than the central government. However, central government policy still played an important, sometimes crucial, facilitating role in the rollout.

Lessons Learned
The case study offers a number of interesting reflections on the rollout of green innovations:

  1. Consider involving the public sector in private sector activities in the early stages of a transformative innovation. This can help to overcome lock-in problems and, because the public sector acquires valuable know-how on the technology, reduce the information asymmetry between the public and private sector when, e.g., drafting legislation.
  2. Use public tenders by subnation governments as an effective innovation strategy. When public tenders are written by municipalities, best practices from one municipality can be copied to others. This allows for sufficient space for experimentation and tailoring to local needs.
  3. Let legislation follow innovation and use self-regulation in the early stages of innovation. In the early phase of an innovation, firms still have incentives to cooperate making self-regulation more effective. It also allows firms and (local) governments more room for experimentation.
  4. Avoid resistance by rolling out transformative innovations in areas that have few incumbent industries.
  5. The government can stimulate innovation cost-efficiently by improving the (TIS) system surrounding an innovation.
  6. Organize compensation for first-mover disadvantages related to innovations in crucial infrastructure technologies with large network externalities.


Download the case study here.

Read more about the overview report here.