uber electric cars

Uber Electric Cars Are on the Way

Jane Marsh - September 6, 2018

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn affiliate commission.

Have you recently booked an Uber trip? There’s a chance the driver’s vehicle was an electric car, but Uber still has progress to make in that area.

To put things in perspective, 4 billion people took Uber trips in 2017, but only 4 million of those were in Uber electric cars.

The relatively few drivers who have electric vehicles (EVs) and work for Uber face challenges such as having difficulty finding charging points. In addition, the time it takes to recharge the cars interferes with time they could spend earning money.

However, the likelihood of you riding in Uber electric cars could rise substantially. That’s because the company is beginning an initiative that reduces many of the obstacles that make Uber drivers stick to traditional cars — and even pays them to use EVs.

Uber Electric Cars Are Already Encouraged in London

Uber is meeting resistance in the London market. The city’s non-Uber cab drivers are threatening to sue Uber drivers over lost earnings. Also, in June 2018, a court ruling resulted in the company only receiving a short-term license to operate in the city that includes a 15-month probation period. That occurred after London’s transport authority ruled Uber was not a “fit and proper” operator.

Eco-minded people can likely agree the company’s doing something right. In the fall of 2017, Uber announced all its London drivers must transition to electric vehicles by 2020. At the time of that announcement, under half of Uber drivers in the city were using EVs.

Uber hopes its plan will cut down on the extraordinary levels of air pollution in London. It’s also making drivers in other United Kingdom cities — where the air is not as dirty but still problematic — drive electric-powered vehicles by 2022.

Details of Uber’s Widespread Program

The most recent, and more extensive, program to boost the use of Uber electric cars is called the EV Champions Initiative. It was announced in June 2018 and launched in seven North American cities, including Montreal and San Francisco. The goal is for the company’s driver-partners to give at least 5 million trips in Uber electric cars over the next year.

However, Uber and its drivers won’t be accomplishing that goal without help. Numerous partners, including Electric Mobility Canada, the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, will assist the company with its aims.

Uber will offer in-app features for EV drivers, plus educational resources that inform all drivers why it’s worthwhile to consider owning an electric car instead of a conventional one. Some states offer perks for people who have electric or otherwise environmentally friendly vehicles. Federal initiatives exist, too.

Not surprisingly, even members of the public who aren’t Uber drivers consider buying new, eco-friendly transportation options.

Because of the increasing number of Earth-friendly cars on the market, it may not be evident if you’re in one of the Uber electric cars. That’s why the company gives riders in-app notifications when they’re in one of those progressive vehicles. Some drivers will have materials about EVs to give to interested riders, helping increase consumer awareness.

How Much More Will Uber Drivers Get Paid?

Even if Uber drivers are passionate about conserving the environment, the fact is that many of them transport passengers as side jobs or main jobs. That means it may not be financially feasible for some to invest in different vehicles unless there’s a significant financial incentive attached.

Indeed, some drivers get increased pay for operating EVs on their routes, but it’s not a set rate across the board. There are also pilot cities where drivers don’t get extra money.

For example, Uber’s driver-partners in San Diego and San Francisco get an extra dollar per trip. That sounds great at first, until you hear there’s a $20 weekly earning cap.

In Pittsburgh, drivers will reportedly get a dollar more per trip with no mention of a limit. However, a spokesperson for Uber also said there’s only $5,000 put aside for driver incentives in that city. Unlucky drivers in Los Angeles only get educational assistance with no cash bonuses available.

Will Uber Cause a Sizeable Impact?

It’s worth realizing this is only a year-long initiative from Uber. That’s better than nothing, and the 5-million-trip goal sounds impressive. However, the company already achieved 4 million EV trips in 2017.Additionally, it remains to be seen whether drivers will be excited enough about Uber electric cars if they don’t already own them. If drivers in the cities with cash incentive caps get the most money from those offers per week, they still only end up with $1,040 at the end of a year. That’s likely not sufficient by itself to make people switch to vehicles powered by electricity.

However, drivers need to have a broader view, too. An investigation by the Rocky Mountain Institute found when full-time transportation drivers switch to electric cars, they could save $5,200 per year in overall vehicle costs compared to driving gas vehicles.

If drivers also take advantage of any state and federal incentives available to them, it’s easier to see how electric vehicles have a positive impact on bank accounts over time. Sure, they have a higher-than-average upfront cost. However, all people must assess potential long-term benefits instead of just paying attention to a car’s price tag.

Other Electric Car Drivers Benefit From Uber’s Plans

Uber’s cash-based incentives for some of its drivers aren’t significant. However, the company is working with local officials in its pilot cities to install more electric charging stations.

That means all drivers — whether they operate Uber electric cars or not — won’t struggle as much with charging. That’s a positive thing for people who own electric vehicles or are thinking about buying them. So, Uber’s efforts have shortcomings, but they could encourage more people to embrace electric-powered means of getting around.

Share on

Like what you read? Join other Environment.co readers!

Get the latest updates on our planet by subscribing to the Environment.co newsletter!

About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.