Climate change and deep cuts in CO 2 emissions require transitions to new kinds of transport systems. To understand the dynamics of these transitions, this paper introduces a socio-technical approach which goes beyond technology fix or behaviour change. Systemic transitions entail co-evolution and multi-dimensional interactions between industry, technology, markets, policy, culture and civil society. A multi-level perspective (MLP) is presented as a heuristic framework to analyze these interactions. The paper aims to introduce the MLP into transport studies and to show its usefulness through an application to the auto-mobility system in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This application aims to assess the drivers, barriers and possible pathways for low-carbon transitions. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.