Rotterdam Vision
Sustainability 04.11.2021 5 Min.
Creating liveable cities.

The BMW Group and the City of Rotterdam join forces up to 2027 to work on creating solutions that make cities more liveable. Rotterdam will become a blueprint for urbanity worldwide. 

Cities account for around two percent of the earth’s surface. However, they are home to almost 60 percent of the world’s population. That is almost five billion people today – and the trend is upward. People, industry and traffic all come together in the confines of conurbations. That has consequences for the environment: cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This makes them important in the fight against climate change. Clean, emission-free inner cities contribute greatly to global climate protection. New technologies that make traffic more efficient and individual mobility more sustainable are used by millions of people. This has the potential to significantly reduce emissions.

For more than 25 years, the BMW Group has been working with several cities worldwide on future urban mobility concepts: Among them Los Angeles, Berlin, Beijing, Munich, Hamburg and Rotterdam. What do these cities have in common? Their increasing growth leads to a densification of living and traffic spaces. The results are congested infrastructure, traffic jams, air pollution and noise. The BMW Group wants to identify ways in which cities can meet the needs of their inhabitants while achieving their sustainability goals.

To identify the cities’ challenges, the company is developing visions of what a city could look like in 2030. Essentially, most topic areas, such as electromobility and the digitalization of traffic, are relevant for all cities. However, there are differences in the implementation, depending on the local infrastructure. To meet these, the BMW Group develops individual plans that are tailored to the standards and the needs of the city.Together with the respective city councils and cross-sectoral partners from industry and academia, the BMW Group develops pilot projects that make urban transport safer, more digitally connected and more sustainable. One of these visions has been developed for the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Here, you will find out what it looks like – based on the four exemplary topic areas of "Multimodality", "Traffic Management", "Parking & Charging", and "Green Charging”. 

Rotterdam: an electric mobility success story.

Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and, with the largest seaport in Europe, an important transshipment point for goods from all over the world. Rotterdam is also known for its unique, futuristic architecture and multifaceted cultural scene. This avant-garde city attracts millions of tourists every year. The Rotterdam-The Hague metropolitan region is densely populated, home to 2.3 million inhabitants. The city and its role in European and international trade is constantly growing - and with it the need for environmentally friendly mobility. All urban mobility and transport in Rotterdam is to become emission-free in 2050 latest, and the city is pursuing this goal with the ’Approach on Zero Emission Mobility’. The Netherlands is already a pioneer in electric mobility: The country offers the most charging stations in all of Europe, both in absolute numbers and per square kilometer. In fact, Rotterdam has more public charging stations than Los Angeles, which is about six times its size. With more than 3,500 charging stations, five large charging sites and a substantial car-sharing fleet, Rotterdam already has the right infrastructure to become a "smart city".

But there is more to be done. The City of Rotterdam has been working on making the city even more liveable with the BMW Group since 2018. This includes an exciting pilot project with Erasmus University, which was launched last year and has already brought about many changes in a short time. All BMW plug-in hybrids automatically switch to electric driving mode in "eDrive zones" in the city centre, driving with zero local emissions. This helps the air become cleaner, and drivers are also rewarded financially. They collect BMW Charging Points for every kilometre they drive electrically, which they can then redeem for charging credits. Following Rotterdam’s example, these eDrive zones have now been introduced in 118 European conurbations, and by November, it will be 138.

The city of the future is efficient, green and digital.

The successful cooperation between the BMW Group and the City of Rotterdam is to be further expanded and was recently extended until 2027. Both partners have initially agreed on five new pilot projects that will help improve life in the city. They are a model for all major cities worldwide.

Illustration Multimodality

“Multimodality”: Choosing the most efficient means of transportation.

Navigation systems in cars usually show the fastest route from A to B – however, a change of mode of transport is not taken into account. You could reach your destination much faster – especially during rush hours – by switching to bus or train for the last kilometre into the city centre. To facilitate switching to public transport in city centres, a special navigation and parking system will be introduced in Rotterdam. The BMW Group is also testing this multimodality approach in other cities.

“Traffic Management”: Safer roads with intelligent, connected vehicles.

Traffic flow in Rotterdam will also be digitised in the future. A BMW can collect important data and share it with other vehicles and the city administration. For example, the vehicle can identify and report uneven road surfaces and damage. This helps defects to be remedied more quickly, protecting other road users. The vehicle can also provide information about the current traffic situation and inform drivers in real time about traffic jams, accidents and hazardous situations. Rotterdam is to introduce special safety zones in the future, where BMW vehicles will advise its driver to drive more slowly on certain occations. This happens, for instance, when they are warned of an accident scene or drive into a temporarily traffic-calmed zone. In the future, both partners would like to explore how digital interfaces between the city and its road users can ensure efficient infrastructure and safe road traffic. Within “Traffic Management / Data-Driven Mobility”, the BMW Group is working on digital solutions for inner-city traffic flow.

“Parking & Charging”: Find a vacant charging station at any time.

Another aspect is parking and charging electric vehicles. The charging infrastructure still cannot keep up with the rapid growth of electric vehicles in cities. It is sometimes difficult to find a vacant charging station, as the charging spots tend to be occupied for much longer than necessary. In Rotterdam, it will be made easier for drivers to move their vehicles as soon as the charging process has been completed. For example, apps can be used to send a message as soon as the vehicle is fully charged so the car can be moved from that parking space. At the same time, an alternative parking space is reserved for the vehicle in the nearby area. With "Parking & Charging", the BMW Group is developing solutions to improve the parking situation and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“Green Charging”: Using electric vehicles for energy storage.

Once the charging infrastructure has been digitally connected, electric cars can also be used to store renewable energy. At the BMW Group, this endeavour is called “Green Charging”. The Rotterdam pilot project “Vehicle to Grid” (V2G) will explore how batteries in e-vehicles can be used to store surplus energy from solar and wind power plants and then feed it into the electricity grid. This works via bi-directional charging: Users are not only able to charge their electric vehicle at a charging station via the cable, but also “discharge” it back into the electricity grid. The technology is currently being tested at Rotterdam’s city maintenance location, Kleinpolderplein. Bi-directional charging can help prevent power cuts and grid overloads in cities by allowing electric car batteries to “stand in” as a reserve source.

 “The city of Rotterdam is at the forefront of sustainable mobility planning. The BMW Group has been a pioneer in the field of electromobility and sustainability and therefore sees Rotterdam as a valuable partner in this endeavour,” says Pieter Nota, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Customers, Brands and Sales. More than 500 cities worldwide already have over a million inhabitants. Soon these could be 500 digitally connected, efficient and sustainable cities.

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