Sustainable circular mobility: User-integrated innovation and specifics of electric vehicle owners
The circular economy (CE) represents an environmentally and sustainability-focused economic paradigm that has gained momentum in recent years. Innovation ecosystems are the evolving interconnected sets of actors, activities, artefacts, and institutions who are vital to the innovative performances of single actors or actor groups consisting largely of firms in the products and services sector. To develop sustainable CE ecosystems, participating firms need to involve the consumers and users in their innovation processes. The automotive industry is to a large extent an industry in which incorporating customer requirements in product development is critical to success. In addition, growing expectations and growing awareness of environmental issues drive the industry to develop environmentally friendly products. However, CE solutions and, specifically, sustainable tyres have not yet been given due consideration. Likewise, the specific preferences of the end-users of sustainability-focused cars such as electric vehicles (EVs) and users of biofuels are unknown in the CE context so far. Based on the current state of research, this article addresses an important, unexplored topic of product circularity. Being the first article on consumer interests and active contributions to CE automotive products, it also extends the first articles on CE software products. A survey of 168 traditional car owners (no EV/biofuels users), 29 users of biofuels, and 40 EV affine consumers was conducted in Germany to create an empirical foundation for the specification of CE configuration software for sustainable automotive products, particularly sustainable tyres. The results show different preferences among these user groups, but also the importance of other characteristics not captured by the distinction by car ownership. In particular, the perception of climate change and the use of test reports or rating portals were variables that had significant influence on configuration preferences.