Why Amsterdam is a perfect example of cities going carbon-neutral

In: stories

Jun 20, 2022

More than 50% of the world population lives in cities, and this number is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. Air pollution is responsible for decreasing the world population’s life span by more than two years. With a European initiative, cities will make try to drastically reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. Creating cleaner and healthier cities for its citizens. Electrifying boats will play a part in this.

One hundred cities in the EU have pledged to drastically reduce their carbon emissions by 2030.

The 100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities initiative by the European Commission received more than 370 applications. And while cities are taking the lead in the fight against the climate, they are also responsible for the majority of the world's pollution.

Some cities will do more than others, especially considering these plans are not legally binding. Nonetheless, it’s a great sight to see cities taking the lead towards a cleaner and better future for Europe’s cities and the planet.

Clean European waterways

In Propel’s home country, The Netherlands, six cities demonstrated that battling the climate crisis is on top of their agenda. Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Groningen, Eindhoven, and Amsterdam each decided to do their part in reducing carbon emissions.

While the country is renowned for its waterworks, The Netherlands is also in the top 10 on the Eco-Innovation scoreboard and has the highest density of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations.

Interestingly, when you think about reducing carbon emissions, you might not immediately think about boats. Yet, throughout Europe, various cities and counties have already banned fossil fuel powered boats or will forbid banning them over the next few years.

For example, on virtually all lakes in Austria and Germany, only electric propelled boats are permitted. And for cities, there is another good reason to ban fossil fuel powered boats, they are relatively large contributors to local air pollution.

Electrified canals of Amsterdam

In the ‘Venice of the North’, Amsterdam, something interesting is happening. The Dutch capital did not only focus on climate change, they are also considering the shortened expected life span of its residents, caused by air pollution.

Air pollution is the number-3 cause of premature death, after smoking and unhealthy lifestyles.

"Everyone wants clean air. We are therefore taking measures to improve air quality in Amsterdam. All forms of transport must be emission-free within 10 years. This includes transport by water. From 2025 this will already apply to the city centre," is written on the informative webpage by the municipality of Amsterdam.

The city first researched what devices and equipment are causing the air pollution and greenhouse gasses, and then ranked only those that are within the city’s span of control.

While cars are responsible for most emissions, commercial and leisure marine take the second spot. Therefore, the municipality of Amsterdam has decided to decarbonize its canals by 2025.

As of 2030, the rules will also apply for all other Amsterdam waters. Switching to electric boating is already encouraged by the city’s municipality: Emission-free boats currently receive a 70% discount on inland port dues.

Driven by legislation, canal cruise operators have already electrified their fleets, but now, private boat owners will need to make the transition as well. This means that the 7000+ boats that cruise the city’s historical canals, will have to convert into electric propulsion in less than 3 years. Considering that in 2019 only 5% of the privately owned fleet were driven by emission-free propulsion, it’s quite the ambition.

Change does matter

Now, if you think that electrifying boats will not make a difference in reducing emissions, here are some stats to convince you otherwise.

Privately owned boats, and commercially owned boats that are used recreationally, are collectively responsible for 7% of all nitrous oxide emissions and 4% of the total particulate matter within the city.

Moreover, due to the lack of exhaust gas treatment systems in boat engines, as found in all modern car engines, a modern 5 horsepower 4-stroke outboard engine can be as polluting as 39 passenger cars driving at 95 km/h. Try to visualize that.

A modern 5 horsepower 4-stroke outboard engine can be as polluting as 39 passenger cars driving at 95 km/h. Source: CARB

Lack of charging stations

With ambitions come challenges. One big challenge the city is facing with its electrification of the canals are charging stations.

Presently, there are 12 public charging stations available to electric boats. While boat owners that live on the waterside may charge their boats from their homes, the majority of owners rely on these public charging stations.

So, when will the city add more charging stations? Now, that’s the million-dollar question.

The municipal government of Amsterdam has announced earlier this year that they won’t add any more charging stations for electric boats in 2022.

Luckily, there are some local initiatives, such as Stroomboot, that are installing charging points at houseboats and restaurant establishments on the water where boats can moor to charge.

So, consumers hesitating to make the switch to electric, are facing a dilemma. They either have to invest in an internal combustion engine (ICE) with the risk that it can only be used for a brief period, or they hope that the introduction of the legislation will be delayed.

Electric boats are coming

Now, whether you are still a fan of roaring internal combustion engines or not, electric boats are coming. Change is not only driven by legislation, there is a whole list of benefits to convert your boat to an electric one.

For cities to become clean, everyone will need to change the way they travel and recreate.

Because even though most of the carbon emissions are produced by major cities, it’s also where the necessary innovation is happening.

Amsterdam has our support

Propel supports the initiative of the City of Amsterdam to keep the canals clean and the air breathable. After all, it remains a UNESCO World Heritage Site that we are all proud of and want to take care of. You too? If the answer is yes, your first step in supporting it is to choose the Propel S1 outboard or Propel S1 inboard.

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