The transition to electric vehicles and a net zero economy: A model based on circular economy, stakeholder theory, and system thinking approach

Melissa Demartini, Marco Ferrari, Kannan Govindan*, Flavio Tonelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution are major contributors to climate change, causing harm to both the planet and people. Since transportation is a significant source of these emissions, several European countries have implemented plans to switch to electric cars and decrease emissions by 2050. However, this transition presents many challenges, including issues with redesigning supply chains, scarcity of raw materials, and impacts on employment, technology, mobility behaviour, and infrastructure. The aim of this study is to develop a model based on system dynamics and agent-based approaches to evaluate effects of the electric and net zero economy transitions on the automotive supply chains and relevant stakeholders. The study incorporates principles of circular economy, stakeholder theory, and system thinking approach. The research considers various stakeholders such as automotive manufacturers, suppliers, and workers, and it explores several operations such as production, de-manufacturing, and end-of-life activities for three types of vehicles: fuel, hybrid, and electric. The results of the model show that a transition towards electric vehicles and a net zero economy is only possible through the implementation of circular economy, which can generate new business opportunities, reductions in raw material consumption, and a resulting increase in competitiveness; however, at the same time, this transition can have several implications for job. Indeed, the EV transition will significantly reduce the number of manufacturing jobs available in the automotive industry due to an increase in automation, fewer moving parts, and simpler engines. Therefore, it is fundamental that companies and policy makers use the results of this study to reduce the negative effects on employment and plan specific programs and policies to support the developing of new skills for workers and favour their relocation in the supply chain (i.e., end of life activities).

Original languageEnglish
Article number137031
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 15. Jul 2023


  • Agent based
  • Circular economy
  • de-manufacturing
  • Electric vehicle
  • Net zero economy
  • Stakeholder theory
  • System dynamics
  • System thinking


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