Transition to electric mobility in Brazil: institutional development and advancement of new technology in the state of São Paulo

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Brussels (2023)


The technological path of vehicle electrification has emerged as one of the most promising options for reducing emissions in the transport sector, boosting the energy transition, and decarbonizing urban mobility systems. However, as it is a disruptive technology, this process faces resistance, which is being overcome through public policies. This article employs an analytical framework specifically designed to analyze Institutional Thickness in an interscalar perspective to identify the design and form of institutional instruments implemented to promote vehicular electrification. To approach the Institutional Thickness related to the electromobility development process in the State of São Paulo, we used a qualitative analysis approach based on the rationality of the public policy instruments implemented by public authorities at the federal, state, and local levels. We also employed a strategy of comparative studies, observing the particularities of the municipalities of the State. We operationalized the typology of public policies for three cities in São Paulo (São Paulo, Campinas, and São José dos Campos) that stand out in this area. The public policy instruments found in the process of mapping the São Paulo cases are analyzed following the Public Policy Analysis taxonomy through the conceptual framework named NATO, an acronym formed by the first four letters of the key concepts in English: Nodality, Authority, Treasury, and Organization. It is noteworthy that the NATO Framework understands government as a set of administrative tools used to shape our lives and discipline the uses of territories. After the analyses, the results pointed to the lack of articulation and interrelation between the institutional instruments, both those implemented at the national level and those implemented by the local government. In Brazil, there is a lack of a National Plan for Electric Mobility, as well as structured policies that encourage the consolidation of this segment in the country. What is observed are public policies and actions dispersed among Brazilian municipalities that are independent of central planning by the federal government and lack robustness, a necessary element to promote a rapid insertion and orientation of the country in the debate and choices involving automotive electrification. Particularly, the State of São Paulo presents significant actions in the theme of low-emission mobility, which include electric vehicles, such as the “Climate Action Plan of the State of São Paulo (Net Zero 2050),” elaborated in 2022. This plan is an important effort to change the actions of the state government and includes some considerations about the design of this policy that directly encompass electric vehicles as an option to achieve decarbonization objectives. The State of São Paulo is a precursor in the country regarding the diffusion of electric mobility because municipalities such as São Paulo and São José dos Campos began introducing public policies mainly in the state and municipal spheres, enabling the technological transition process to take place with government support and encouragement, not just in an organic or intuitive way, as seen in the city of Campinas. The panorama observed in the State of São Paulo, and in the cities selected for analysis (São Paulo, Campinas, and São José dos Campos), allows us to arrive at a harsh reality in relation to the diffusion of electric mobility in the country. The process is expanding unequally and unregulated, a consequence of the absence of federal public policies, which should articulate and promote incentives together with state and municipal policies, in addition to complying with a national plan to promote electric mobility. The absence of structured public policies at the federal level has contributed to an unequal and unregulated expansion of electric mobility in Brazil. Even in regions that stand out in terms of electrification, there are limits to the full expansion of this socio-technical option.

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