Over the past year, Uber has made strides in electrifying its driver-owned and driver-rented fleet. As part of its global commitment to becoming a zero-emission mobility platform by 2040, Uber has taken steps to help drivers make the switch to electric vehicles. Last year, the company announced a partnership with Hertz to make up to 50,000 Teslas available for drivers to rent through 2023. It then built an “EV Hub” in the Uber Driver app, a one-stop shop where they can get information and incentives to join the electric revolution and even compare the cost of ownership of an EV versus a non-electric vehicle.
Most recently, Uber has set up a way for passengers to choose an electric car for their trip. It started in just a few cities already known for electric vehicles, but now Comfort Electric is expanding to 24 cities in the United States as well as Vancouver, Canada. Uber Comfort Electric is a fast and easy way to get around while helping the environment. All you have to do is press a button on your phone and request a premium electric vehicle like a Tesla, Polestar or Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Uber has received positive feedback from passengers about Comfort Electric, but not only are passengers excited about this new product experience, but so are drivers. Drivers who qualify for Comfort Electric can earn more per hour through higher rates, fuel savings, and a $1 per trip bonus for every completed trip (up to $4,000 annually). They also have a significant environmental impact: Since joining the Uber platform in 2022, EV drivers have avoided consuming over 5.7 million gallons of gasoline.
Because so many of the Uber Comfort electric cars are Teslas, Uber had to add instructions to the app on how to open a Tesla’s door handles. Uber had heard from drivers that some drivers are having trouble figuring out how to open the Tesla door handle. Now it’s not a problem – passengers can check an in-app notification that pops up once they’re matched with a Tesla. This makes it so they don’t fight when the car pulls up.
Cities where this offer is now available include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore-Maryland, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Connecticut, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, NYC Suburbs, Philadelphia , Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Vancouver (Canada) and Washington DC
That’s a lot better than I had as a driver in 2018
In 2017 and 2018, I experimented with giving people EV rides with Uber and Lyft. I have to say that this is a much better situation compared to then.
The $1 bonus per electric ride is a very big improvement. The truth is that using an EV for Uber means you have to spend part of your day charging instead of making money. Giving drivers more money for each electric trip means they are compensated for their downtime charging and the inconvenience of having to find charging stations between trips. This levels the playing field.
One thing Uber won’t tell you is that a lot of people do Uber because they’re going through tough times. If you lose a job or a deal goes awry, you can sign up for Uber and immediately start making at least some money while you wait to find a job. Unlike McDonald’s, Walmart, or a call center job, they won’t turn you away because you’re overqualified, and they know they’ll lose you the moment better opportunities present themselves. As long as you’re a safe driver and nice to people, Uber doesn’t care what your background is.
When times are tough, you often can’t afford to buy an electric vehicle, and getting a loan for one while unemployed is a big challenge. Being able to rent an electric vehicle, give people a ride, bring money home, and have a Tesla in the driveway is a great way not only to stay afloat, but to feel like you’re doing fine.
This latest offering is a big deal because it helps people who rent or own an electric vehicle have an edge over drivers who bought an old, broken-down Prius for Uber (a very common choice for full-time rideshare drivers). Passengers would rather ride in a Tesla than a Prius with dented seats, and drivers would rather be in one, too. Bringing these two people together makes sense and makes it a sensible choice instead of the financially bad move.
Uber’s broader clean-traffic efforts
In 2020, Uber’s CEO announced that the company would do exactly what it is doing today, and many subsequent posts about EVs and EV incentives have harked back to that announcement.
He pointed out that everything changed in 2020. Months of shutdowns have cost millions of jobs and forced communities and businesses into survival mode. Longstanding inequalities have deepened, and many of the same communities that were plagued by air pollution are now vulnerable to the aftermath of COVID-19.
But there was an upside: the smog that had blanketed cities’ skylines for so long disappeared during the lockdown. Pollution levels declined, wildlife returned, and disease spread. Many cities have re-evaluated their infrastructure in response to the epidemic, turning parking lots into parks and creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. In cities designed for people rather than cars, we’ve seen what life could be like with less traffic and cleaner air – in places where drivers aren’t king.
At the time, Uber announced four key actions it would commit to during the recovery phase of the pandemic:
- Expanding Uber Green to make it easier for riders to choose whether to travel in hybrid or electric vehicles
- Deploying $800 million in resources to help hundreds of thousands of drivers transition to electric vehicles by 2025
- Investment in a multimodal network to promote sustainable alternatives to the private car
- In doing so, be transparent and accountable to the public
This recent announcement showed its commitment to the first two (making it easier for EV ridesharing and making it easier for drivers to purchase an EV), but there are still plans to build some sort of “multimodal network” that will push car alternatives and expand transparency.
All the details are here, but the basic plan is to help Uber serve more as a last-mile filler for transit, rather than an alternative to it.
Featured image provided by Uber.
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