Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to give an answer to the questions whether China can make the quantum leap in automotive technology from engines that burn fossil-fuel to those that do not and whether China will take an “alternative Asian path of development.” Design/methodology/approach – This paper is based on a sociological approach to prove potential technical innovations reflecting the social conditions of radical innovations like post-fossil mobility concepts. Findings – Innovations like a post-fossil car concept consist of more than new technical infrastructures and mere imitations, they require decentralized spaces for incubation and experimentation. Translated into conditions governing the policy milieu, that need means that potential promoters of innovations need fundamental political freedoms, equality before the law, legal certainty, and the advancement and protection of personal rights vis-à-vis the state. In a sociological perspective, China needs social modernization in the sense of differentiation, individualization, and internalization of external constraints. Research limitations/implications – This paper reflects the opportunities and restrictions of radical change in car technology in china. It does not give evidence for the future of conventional mass motorization as the continuance of the state of the art in car technologies. Practical implications – This paper implies – as a practical consequence – that the established car industry in the triad is furthermore responsible for progress in car and motor concepts being more energy efficient and less dependent from oil. Originality/value – The original contribution of this paper is that it connects the technical debate on the future of cars and their drive system with the discussion of social and political terms of collective capacity of radical innovations.
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