Rotterdam takes the lead in electrifying transport (The Netherlands)

By Jan-Willem Van ... / Updated: 11 May 2015

In 2012 Rotterdam embarked on a 12-month project to test the overall feasibility of electric vehicles, during which it monitored 75 electric vehicles and 129 charging points – an experiment on a scale that was unprecedented.

Not only did the project assess fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, but it also focused on the entire chain, from the distribution transformers to the charging points, right down to the wheels.

Rotterdam’s efforts have paid-off. The actions that followed the testing resulted in an increase in people using electric vehicles, the improvement of air quality and an effective electric vehicle infrastructure that continues to grow.


Rotterdam is Europe’s largest and the world’s fifth biggest seaport. Its size and the volume of goods coming in and out present a big traffic and transport challenge. The port handles 450 million tons of goods a year, most of which are transported over roads to the rest of the EU.

Rotterdam’s approach to sustainability and climate includes an ambitious strategy to create new investments and job opportunities. The Rotterdam Climate Initiative (RCI) - a partnership between the City of Rotterdam, the Port of Rotterdam, DCMR Environmental Protection Agency Rijnmond, and Deltalinqs - plays a crucial role in this regard.

Rotterdam bases its approach on three guiding principles: clean use; clean vehicles; clean fuel. Stimulating the use of electric vehicles, through the Rotterdam Electric programme, was seen as a crucial part of this approach and in improving sustainable mobility and transport in the city.

In action 

The aim of the Rotterdam Electric programme is to support and accelerate the development of the electric mobility market. To achieve this, Rotterdam focused on:

  • Updating its own vehicle fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles
  • Stimulating the purchase of pedelec bicycles (bicycles with electric-assisted pedalling) and electric scooters
  • Creating a charging infrastructure to encourage the use of electric transport
  • Introducing innovative projects to speed up market interest in electric transport.

To research the effects of ‘greening’ its vehicle fleet, the city initiated the Rotterdam Tests Electric Vehicles programme, a large-scale trial that over 12 months monitored 75 electric vehicles and 129 charging points. The results showed that the electric vehicles reduced CO2 emissions by 67 per cent and particulate emissions by up to 20 per cent.

In addition, Rotterdam joined with different public and private partners to test electric garbage trucks, buses, delivery vans and an electric car-sharing program. The city also supports the Electric Scooter Factory (ESFA) and uses electric scooters in its own fleet.

The results of the tests led to Rotterdam’s creation of a charging infrastructure plan that targeted three different types of locations:

Private property

  • Organisations or people who want a charging station on their own property receive a subsidy up to € 1 000 for the charging station and installation costs. If they use green energy (such as biomass, or wind/solar energy), Rotterdam pays up to € 450 towards charging costs in the first year.

Public property 

  • If an electric vehicle owner cannot have a charging station on their property, the city will install a public charging station within 250 metres of their home or business. If this is located in a paid parking zone, Rotterdam pays up to € 678 towards parking costs in the first year.

Multi-storey car parks

  • Rotterdam produced a manual to help car park owners install charging points in their facilities.

The city also hosts the ‘Elektrisch Vervoerscentrum’ (Electric Mobility Centre) which provides information on subsidies, charging systems, insurance schemes and leasing – and allows visitors to test drive different vehicles.


Rotterdam’s efforts have paid off. The number of people using electric vehicles has increased, the air quality has improved and the infrastructure for electric vehicles is growing.

In 2013 Rotterdamians drove 2 110 399 kilometres in electric vehicles – the equivalent of driving the circumference of the globe every week. The increase in electric vehicle usage in 2013 resulted in a 311 t reduction in CO2, a 538 kg reduction in NOx, and 5.3 kg reduction of particulate matter compared to 2012.

At the beginning of 2014, Rotterdam counted over 800 charging points (a jump of 700 per cent since 2012). By the end of 2014, it will rise even further to at least 1 250 charging points. Rotterdam also aims to further transform its own vehicle fleet into greener forms of transport by introducing more electric and hybrid vehicles.

Currently, the city owns over 100 electric vehicles, ranging from electric scooters and Segways, to small electric and hybrid vans and garbage trucks. The city’s goal is for its fleet to have at least 25 per cent electric or hybrid vehicles by the end of 2014.

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

As a result of rigorous and integrated planning and testing, Rotterdam has successfully created one of the largest electric vehicle charging networks in the world today. The only way to achieve this, says Rotterdam Electric’s Lutske Lindeman, is to have an open frame of mind, combined with a close working relationship with market parties such as private businesses, corporations and EV manufacturers.

‘One thing was clear from the beginning,’ Lindeman says. ‘Without the promise of a proper economic-value model, electric driving would not be able to survive as a new form of transport.  So, instead of just putting money on the table, we decided to find ways to stimulate local and national stakeholders – governments and businesses – into action.

‘Innovative projects are vital to push the market into creating new solutions. Communication is also important. Heavy investments in new future developments thrive on clear and meaningful communication with the public.’

Rotterdam combined this with a vision that comprised of more than just creating a network of charging stations. In other words, it was necessary to lead by example – or as Rotterdam puts it, ‘be good and tell it.’ That’s why it conducted the trials and why currently 25 per cent of city’s fleet is electric. ‘If you don’t show that you believe in it yourself,’ Lindeman says, ‘you can’t expect investors to step into a new market.’

In Depth 

Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette

Clean and energy-efficient vehicles
Western Europe
Lutske Lindeman
Jan-Willem Van der Pas
18 Aug 2014
11 May 2015