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Business Insider NL: "Shell and Uber competitor ViaVan start electric taxi service in Amsterdam - it begins with a few vehicles, but the goal is 100% electric"

Source: Business Insider NL, Gyurka Jansen (November 7, 2019)

ViaVan and Shell will work together in Amsterdam to set up an electric shared ride project, both companies announced on Thursday. Via’s "smart" routing algorithms and Shell’s charging solutions must come together in order to utilize shared journeys as efficiently as possible.

ViaVan is a project between American shared ride service Via and European car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz Vans. The shared ride provider launched in 2012 and operates in a number of American cities, London, Berlin and Amsterdam. Through the collaboration with Shell, ViaVan wants to become a strong electric mobility provider as quickly as possible.

Electric ambition makes Amsterdam a logical choice

With the existing service in Amsterdam, ViaVan is trying to reduce all CO2 emissions from transport in the city, explains ViaVan CEO Chris Snyder in a conversation with Business Insider. Because several people share a ride via the most optimal route, as little as possible is emitted. That is therefore different than private taxi services such as Uber, where you book a journey individually.

Expanding the service with electric mobility solutions then seems logical, certainly because ViaVan also runs electric shared taxis in Berlin. Around half of the fleet’s 160 shuttles are now electric there, says Snyder.

More and more cities in Europe are opting to reduce CO2 emissions, but the municipality of Amsterdam is particularly ambitious about that. "The municipality has clearly stated that city logistics should be zero emission in 2025," said Snyder. This immediately creates a clear market for electric transport in Amsterdam.

Large players like Shell can accelerate the transition to emission-free

Emission-free driving can be a success or failure based on sufficient supply of charging stations. That is why ViaVan is entering into a partnership with Shell for this project as a way to offer further access to charging stations. There are of course other options for partners, but according to Snyder, Shell is a good addition to ViaVan's approach.

"We have a shared vision about the future." A future in which all kinds of more sustainable transport must be considered, not just "electric driving".

Snyder does not want to speak about the collaboration in terms of money. According to him, it is an exchange in which both companies work together in research & development for this new project. "We are not trying to score in the news with numbers or dollars," he says.

To make a sustainable future for transport a success, Snyder believes it is important that major players work together on solutions. That is why choosing Shell is not only a logical but also a "necessary" step.

In every city where ViaVan is present, a different approach is needed. In Amsterdam, for example, the municipal transport company, the GVB, is very strong, according to Snyder.

In other cities, ViaVan can fill the gaps that public transport leaves behind and therefore work together with those organizations. That happens, for example, in Milton Keynes in England, where ViaVan cooperates with the local City Council to further optimize shared transport for travelers.

That is not the case in the Netherlands; here the project is separate from municipal transport. But the vision of ViaVan remains collaboration with the city.

According to him, that arrangement also makes ViaVan's offer different from Uber's shared taxi service, UberPool. "A logical comparison," he says, "but that is a completely different type of project. We want to work with cities to offer better solutions for public transport."

Electric is a choice for the future

The decision to take the next step in Amsterdam and to make the supply greener is not only motivated by the vision of the City Council. The progressive attitude of the people of Amsterdam themselves also makes the city an ideal place for the Shell and ViaVan project.

In the ViaVan app, travelers are given the option of specifically booking an electric taxi. Snyder is confident that there is a demand for this in Amsterdam. "Opting for electric driving is clearly the future."

How many electric vehicles are actually on the road in Amsterdam? "A handful," says Snyder. That does not seem like a large number, but it is ViaVan's ambition to expand that quickly if the mobility project proves to be a success. "We are constantly increasing the number of electric vehicles and we hope to be 100 percent electric as soon as possible."

The vehicles will be available everywhere in ‘greater Amsterdam’, including neighborhoods outside the ring.