Amsterdam is a living laboratory

As the official mobility representative in the Dutch metropolis, Sharon Dijksma has ambitious plans: She wants to motivate the citizens of Amsterdam to completely relinquish fossil-fuel transport by 2030. In this interview she tells us what counts here and how the automotive industry can help her.

Ms. Dijksma, what are your plans with regard to mobility for Amsterdam, as the Deputy Mayor and official representative for mobility?

We have a clear goal: Clean air for all citizens! By 2030, Amsterdam's traffic is to be emission-free. If we want to adhere to the guideline values of the World Health Organization for air quality, we really have to do something!

To put it bluntly, 2030 is not far away.

Yes, at the outset, in particular, there were many doubters: How can this be done? What does emission-free traffic mean for people who can't afford an electric car? It very soon became clear that if we really want to achieve this, we have to create a statutory framework and adopt a whole range of measures. For example, we have to make electric cars affordable, whether they are new or used cars.

Sharon Dijksma has been the deputy mayor and mobility representative for Amsterdam since 2018. Alongside traffic and transport, she is also responsible for the water supply and air quality of the most populous city in the Netherlands. The politician from the social-democratic workers' party was previously a state secretary at the Ministry of Economics and Ministry of Education and the Arts in The Hague. She studied law at the University of Groningen and also Public Administration at the University of Twente.

Then you also need support from the car industry?

Yes, of course. It is absolutely crucial for success that vehicle manufacturers like you, but also leasing companies, work together with us. If there is ultimately no used-vehicle market for electric cars, and people with an average income are unable to afford an electric vehicle, we won't be able to do it. With Daimler we are currently already working on a joint way of coming closer to our goal of "Zero Emission 2030".

The new generation: smart EQ fortwo coupé. Combined electrical consumption 16.5 – 14.0 kWh/100 km, combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km.

So in your eyes, how can Daimler contribute towards a city with a high quality of living like Amsterdam?

You want to shape the future of mobility, right? We very much welcome the fact that you are concentrating on clean means of transport here! Together with your Urban Mobility Group, this year we have worked on various mobility projects. A key contribution is that you, as a partner of the city of Amsterdam, are looking for solutions together with us! In the end, both sides benefit from looking beyond the horizon in this way. Together we can shape fair access to electric mobility. This makes me think of purchasing second-hand electric vehicles or the opportunity to share new electric cars!

And how interested are the people of Amsterdam to share currently?

In Amsterdam many of our citizens and tourists already use electrified transport. Everywhere in the city you can park for free with your carsharing vehicle. Such incentives are incredibly important. The reason being that change always results in uncertainty too. Incidentally, this also applies to mobility. In order for our citizens to go along with the change, we have to make it as easy and attractive as possible. It would be a big step for Daimler to support by extending the offerings and providing the right vehicles.

Free parking is designed to act as an incentive for carsharing.

That means that even in Amsterdam there is room for improvement when it comes to carsharing?

A few providers are already represented in our city. We are currently trying to win over further carsharing companies with electric and environmentally friendly vehicles. One thing is clear: We need them not just in the downtown area, but above all also in districts further away. They include those districts in which it is not yet the norm to share cars – especially not electric cars. Our aim is to extend the service to include these districts, too.

Clean mobility means alternative drives. By 2025 you want to install between 16,000 and 23,000 charging stations in the urban area. What are the obstacles to implementation?

In cooperation with business we are currently developing new solutions for intelligent charging stations which are slower at peak load in the electricity network and faster at times of low power consumption. These charging stations should also be able to feed power back into the public grid. Something that perhaps not everyone knows: If every citizen were to use an electric car, much more power would be required than is currently the case.

What does this mean for the power grid in Amsterdam?

The power grid has to be able to cope – especially when more energy is required at the same time in the same place. We are currently developing a charging strategy for the coming year, which takes into account not only private vehicles, but also public transport and boat traffic on the canals. Because the aim is also for shipping in the city area to be fully electric by 2030, by 2025 in the downtown area. So we need a good strategy in order to make charging stations available to all these people and at the same time to prepare the grid for this intensive operation. Of course, it also plays a role where we get our power. Our aspiration must be renewable energy sources.

How significant are mobility concepts?

In order to actually realize emission-free traffic, we will need new, alternative mobility solutions.

Why does this work so well in Amsterdam?

We experiment a lot. Amsterdam is, as it were, a living laboratory with nearly 880,000 inhabitants. In the year 2030 there will probably be a million people living here. Our message to companies and manufacturers is therefore: If you need a living laboratory in order to find new concepts for mobility or to gain new experience, then visit us. I am excited to see what we will be able to get up and running together.

What can other European cities currently learn from Amsterdam as they prepare to convert to emission-free traffic?

They could probably learn how to make decisions and to set the bar high. But for me personally it is more about sharing experiences. What we can do really well is extend the provision of charging stations, in particular in the public sphere. Today we already have a good network.

The free-floating car-sharing provider SHARE NOW, which has emerged from the two services car2go and DriveNow, has registered about one million new customers since the start of the year. (20.2 - 12.9 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)

To what extent does modern technology help you reconcile an urban lifestyle, efficiency and environmental protection?

An entire system of transport modes can be booked with our app. Moreover, together with the public transport companies in the four biggest cities, we are working on different methods to make choosing methods of transport in our cities easier and to optimize them constantly. In order to do this, we naturally use data from which our citizens and visitors ultimately benefit.

So is Amsterdam already a Smart City?

Yes. We are a Smart City, but there is nothing wrong with becoming a little smarter every day. We still have to do a lot.

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