Uber wants to go all electric, and soon.
On Tuesday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced four actions Uber is taking “to become a zero-emissions mobility platform.” Uber, of course, doesn’t own the cars its drivers use, so the ride-hailing company’s first action is working to expand the number of hybrid and all-electric vehicles you can request with a new ride mode called Uber Green in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada.
This new type of drive (which has been in many European cities for years) is different from UberX or Uber Black. It’s supposed to entice drivers to use an an electric or hybrid electric vehicle, and for passengers to select one when ride-sharing. It’s now available in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and other cities, and will be in a total of 65 cities around the world by the end of the year.
The new mode gives drivers in both hybrid or all-electric vehicles 50 cents more for driving that vehicle during every Green trip, and for those all-electric drivers in a Tesla, BMW i3, or Chevy Bolt, an additional $1 per trip. If you have an all-electric other zero-emission vehicle (sorry Prius drivers, those Toyotas are hybrids that still require gasoline), you get $1.50 extra for every trip.
Green trips also earn riders more points — three times the points for every dollar compared to only two times for an UberX trip — on Uber Rewards, the company’s loyalty program. This is supposed to balance out the fact that a Green trip costs $1 more to start than a regular UberX. But it’s also cleaner, with Uber claiming up to 44 percent fewer carbon emissions than an internal combustion engine vehicle.
Uber Green is a part of Uber’s overall sustainability goal. By 2030, the company wants 100 percent of trips in the U.S., Canada, and Europe on electric vehicles or other zero-emission modes like e-scooters, or public transit through the app. By 2040, that goal expands globally to everywhere Uber operates. Ride-hailing competitor Lyft earlier this year announced similar EV goals by 2030, but it only operates in the U.S. and Canada. Lyft has offered a “Green Mode” in select cities since 2019.
Other efforts from Uber include investing more in scooter, bicycle, and public transit trips. Similar to Google Maps’ “mixed modes,” Uber will combine routes on both public transit and a ride-share section, so you don’t have to piece it together.
To get drivers to use electric vehicles, which are generally more expensive than gas-powered vehicles and require charging at public stations or home outlets instead of gas fill-ups, Uber pledged $800 million in resources. Partnerships with companies like General Motors, with its all-electric Chevy Bolt, and Nissan, with the electric Leaf, should translate into discounts for drivers buying a new EV. Charging network partners are also offering discounts.
“We applaud the tens of thousands of activists across the country whose work and tireless efforts led to @Uber‘s commitment to 100% EV rides by 2030. Their work will result in ensuring communities across the nation have access to cleaner air.”https://t.co/kLUcugxaCj
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) September 8, 2020
From its first-ever Climate Assessment and Performance report, based on trips in the U.S. and Canada from 2017 through 2019, Uber rides with a plug-in electric vehicle are pretty rare. A battery EV was used on only .15 percent of trip miles. But the joke that every Uber ride is a Toyota Prius holds up: The report found drivers use a hybrid, like the Prius, 5.5 times more while logged onto Uber than the average U.S. car owner.
The report is part of Uber’s “green” recovery strategy after COVID-19 decimated the ride-share industry. Rides were down 80 percent in April. But as Khosrowshahi said, a regular review of the company’s sustainability goals will be available as a way to “be transparent and accountable to the public.”
In what appears to be a way to show Uber isn’t sugarcoating its findings, the report didn’t just detail improvements over the two-year period. Tuesday’s first report found that Uber’s carbon intensity is 41 percent higher than the average-occupancy vehicle ride in the U.S. (In the U.S. there’s an average 1.67 people in a car.) So there’s work to be done.
Once it’s safe, Uber anticipates bringing back Uber Pool, its carpool option; these types of rides were immediately shut down with the pandemic. People also started driving themselves — and investing in the means to do so. Cars.com found that ahead of the Labor Day weekend holiday, more than half of nearly 1,000 Americans surveyed said they planned to buy a car over the three-day weekend. Nearly 65 percent said they were pushing up buying a car because of COVID-19. Unfortunately, electric car sales, like those in California, dropped lower than last year since lockdowns started.