The BMW Group believes in and is betting its economic future on a paradigm shift, away from the car focussed towns and cities of today, to people centric urban areas.
Earlier this year, the BMW Group established an Urban Mobility Think Tank to plan for a future with enhanced urban mobility and to add a better quality of life to the urban environment. Part of the paradigm shift according to the team of experts that BMW brought together is based around Electric Car Sharing, rather than each family having at least 1 car. They see this as an important component in reducing congestion and pollution and to help reduce the excessive demand for parking.
As an early contribution towards this, BMW made 100 completely electric cars available for sharing in each of Berlin, Hamburg and Munich in July, having already started their electric fleet in London in May. These i3 models are part of BMW’s “DriveNow” program.
In the last year, BMW had 470,000 customers worldwide for DriveNow, of which 430,000 were in their home market of Germany, and 120,000 of those in Berlin alone. The WiMobil and ePlan programs had started in 2013 in Munich and Berlin with 60 fully electric BMW ActiveE cars in use. Experience with these was very positive, so these earlier models are now being updated with 30 i3 cars in each of Munich and Berlin. “Our customers enjoyed using our ActiveE cars as much as the conventional cars in our fleet” commented Nico Gabriel, the CEO of DriveNow. “In that way, we were able to let 3,000 people a month see what it was like to drive an electric car and to win them over. The introduction of the i3 in our fleet is the logical next step, which we will gradually be implanting throughout Germany, Europe and worldwide” he added.
BMW believes strongly in electric car sharing, not just to convert people to electric cars, but also to ensure that there is greater use and therefore viability of the charging point infrastructure that is being created. It will prove to the car-driving public that electric cars are viable and available and bring them out of their current niche market to general use.
Electric mobility and car sharing are two key concepts for BMW. Dr Bernhard Blättel, who is head of the Group’s Mobility Services at BMW, explained “within BMW itself, a significant change has already taken place. As a key component of our strategic goal setting, we want to be the world’s leading supplier of premium products and services for individual mobility. We perceive that our customers and society as a whole is on the point of change, and we have taken that into account. The aim now is to move towards towns & cities that are more pleasant place to live in. Our team of experts has been working with cities and business partners to bring forward new concepts for urban mobility. We don’t see any contradiction in wanting to improve both mobility and the quality of life in urban areas.”
One way to improve urban areas, in BMW’s view, is to change some of the significant areas which are today used for parking and turn them over to other uses. In order to do this, they see it as necessary to encourage people to get out of their “own” cars. Public transport provides the backbone of urban mobility, to which they would then add car sharing, particular electric car sharing, to reduce parking requirements, pollution, noise and congestion.
The German Government has seen the sense in this and has recently passed laws to give electric sharing cars prioritised parking privileges, which seems to represent joined up thinking, and which will hopefully catch the eyes of national and local politicians here.
BMW has two related programs alongside DriveNow: ParkNow and ChargeNow. Their research shows that finding a parking space in cities can be one of the worst parts of a journey, and “mobile parking”, or driving around seeking a parking space, can be tiresome, as well as leading to congestion and emissions. ParkNow is described as an integrated platform, on which parking in both private and publicly owned spaces and car parks can be organised. Using real time information, drivers can be directed to available spaces, which can be paid for using the same platform. This means that cars do not head to an area where there are no spaces available, and BMW believe that parking charges could be modified in future to reflect real time demand.
Cars would also be directed to spaces where an intermodal change can take place, for example to switch from the electric i3 car to public transport or a bike sharing station.
It’s surely no coincidence that one of the world’s prestige car makers also now makes bicycles.
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