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BMW Creates a Geo-Fenced Zone in Rotterdam Alerting Drivers to Switch to Electric-Only Mode

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【Summary】The city of Rotterdam and BMW are working on a unique project to to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic pollution by creating a geo-fenced “electric-only zone” for BMW hybrid vehicle drivers entering Rotterdam.

FutureCar Staff    Jan 29, 2019 1:31 PM PT
BMW Creates a Geo-Fenced Zone in Rotterdam Alerting Drivers to Switch to Electric-Only Mode
A BMW hybrid model parked near Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge

The city of Rotterdam and BMW are working on a unique project to to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic pollution by creating a geo-fenced "electric-only zone" for BMW hybrid vehicle drivers entering Rotterdam's city center.

According to a report from Automotive News Europe, the Belgian city and German automaker are working together on a series of projects called "Electric City Drive" that reminds drivers of plug-in BMW models to switch over to electric mode once they enter the city's virtual geo-fenced boundaries.

As motorists enter the city's geo-fenced areas, they receive a text message reminding them to switch their cars from the internal combustion engine to electric-only mode.

"The first results look promising," said Arno Bonte, the city's vice mayor, who oversees energy policies. "I hope we can extend this project as soon as possible, also to owners of cars by other brands."

Drivers participating in the pilot download a smartphone app developed by BMW for their plug-in hybrid BMW, which monitors their engine usage and reminds them to switch to electric driving mode when they hit a designated area.

BMW is allowing drivers to participate in the clean air initiative free of charge. Initial results show most drivers are willing to switch to battery power exclusively while in the zone about 90 percent of the time.

Although Norway, France and Germany have the most battery-powered vehicles on the roads, The Netherlands has more plug-in hybrids on the road than fully-electric vehicles.

"If you really want to make a difference now, you have to look at hybrids," said BMW Netherlands CEO Stefanie Wurst.

European cities, such as Rotterdam, are struggling to meet dual goals of improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars by 30 percent by 2030. Rather than waiting for the mass adoption of electric vehicles, targeting plug-in hybrids is an interim step to begin reducing greenhouse gases.

Rotterdam Vice Mayor Bonte views plug-in hybrids as a bridge to mass adoption of electric vehicles sometime in the mid-2020s as prices fall and EV charging infrastructure improves.

According to EV-Volumes.com, a data provider which collects information from national registries, the number of vehicles capable of driving on electric engines across Europe grew by 33 percent in 2018. Of this number, 81,000 were plug-in hybrid vehicles and 230,000 electric-only vehicles, which makes up about 1.5 percent of total new car sales.

In Germany, some cities are banning high polluting diesel-powered vehicles as a quicker path towards cleaner air. Environmental groups have even sued local governments in an attempt to force bans of some heavily polluting diesel vehicles. The first diesel ban took effect in May in Hamburg.

Diesel car sales in Germany fell to 31.1 percent of the total in the first half of 2018 from 41.3 percent a year earlier, while in the European Union sales declined by 16 percent during the period.

Rotterdam resident Daan Hosli is taking part in Electric City Drive and is trying to use as little fuel as possible. Hosli said he enjoys the challenge of trying to find charging stations and using up his electric battery as often as he can.

"I have to drive for work, I can't avoid that, for me this is just a fun way to do it," said the real estate developer. "It's like a sport for me, to fill up with gas as little as possible."

Rotterdam is still far from becoming a electric-only city. The city has granted a charging station concession to French company Engie, with Engie agreeing to install one public charging pole for each electric or hybrid vehicle owner that requests one.

So far only about 4,000 people in a city of 600,000 requested a charging pole. However, there are many more EV chargers installed in private buildings and parking garages and EV sales are on the rise.


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