The Netherlands: Seeking thrifty ways to cut pollution, Rotterdam links up with BMW hybrid owners

As Daan Hosli’s hybrid BMW glides into downtown Rotterdam, it passes a virtual boundary into the city’s “electric-only zone” and his mobile phone rings to remind him to switch off his combustion engine and drive on battery power.

Hosli is taking part in Electric City Drive, one in a series of projects planned by the city of Rotterdam and BMW looking to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic pollution — without breaking the bank.

“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.”

Participants have a smartphone app, developed by BMW, which monitors their engine usage and reminds them to switch, voluntarily, to electric driving when they hit a geo-fence. Costs to the city, Bonte said, are nil.

Initial results show participants are willing to use battery power exclusively while in the zone about 90 percent of the time.