Electric above the traffic.

What a dream: simply zooming away above the traffic chaos on your electric scooter or bike. ‘BMW Vision E³ Way’, an elevated highway concept developed in China, demonstrates what this vision could look like.

What happens if nothing moves any more in our cities, once conventional mobility concepts and public transport reach their limits, and there is almost no space left even for agile, environmentally friendly electric two-wheelers? Quite simple: this requires other, less conventional solutions – such as ‘BMW Vision E³ Way’, an elevated highway concept developed in Shanghai, the Chinese metropolis of many millions, in cooperation between Tongji University and the BMW Technology Office.

There are three main ideas behind the complicated-sounding vision, as signified by the three ‘E’s, which stand for ‘elevated’, ‘electric’ and ‘efficient’. In other words, the project creates additional traffic capacities by using highways ‘elevated’ above the current streets. These elevated highways, or ‘Skyways’, are explicitly reserved only for two-wheelers with electric engines (‘electric’). The elevated highways are simple, modular, and therefore inexpensive to build, and create fast and direct connections between major transport junctions, making them the perfect alternative for commuters on journeys of up to 15 kilometres. And that makes using the Skyways very ‘efficient’, not just in terms of costs, but also with regard to travel time.

Zero emissions and safe.

The visionary concept has very little in common with the cycle paths of today, however: the roadways are covered, so that they can also be used in inclement weather. The roofs could be equipped with solar panels and additionally collect rain water, which could then cool down the highways during the day in hot cities like Shanghai.

Those without their own means of transport that are permitted to use the Skyway can borrow a vehicle along the route. And it’s worth it: the elevated highways are connected via a system of ramps and entrances to the conventional road network, underground train stations and other transport modalities, making the daily commute not only faster, but also safer. An automatic speed limit of up to 25 kilometres an hour will decrease the risk of accidents even further.

The special feature of the proposed concept is that the two-wheel mobility solutions intended for use on it, such as e-bikes and the BMW X2 motorbike, already exist. The only thing left to do is to implement the new traffic level – and this does not even require additional real estate. The flow of traffic could additionally be optimised permanently through the use of automated traffic monitoring systems, artificial intelligence and integration into Smart City ecosystems.

For Markus Seidel, who leads the BMW Group Technology Office in China, the advantage of the concept is that the principle can be applied to any mega-city. “Over a billion people will live in China’s cities by the year 2050”, he says. “The country will become a global incubator for many mobility innovations, and soon.”

“It is our goal to drive forward sustainability and new mobility concepts in cities and to contribute to a higher quality of life there. We utilise new technologies and our creativity to take innovative paths – as we have done with the ‘BMW Vision E³ Way’ concept”, confirms Dr Gerd Schuster, head of Research, New Technologies, Innovations for the BMW Group.

Shanghai can be assured of interest from the other megalopolises of the world, in any case.