Uber Promises Fleet-wide Electrification by 2030, GM Offers Help
Uber Technologies has promised to make sure that 100 percent of the vehicles used to convey customers in Europe, Canada, and the United States will be powered entirely by electricity — allotting itself just under a decade for the transition. By 2030, Uber said all cars used on the platform will be required to be of the plug-in variety. At the same time, General Motors announced it would be helping drivers get there by offering juicy discounts on items they’ll be required to buy in preparation for the coming change. That seems incredibly convenient, especially for the purveyors of these soon-to-be-mandatory products.
On Tuesday, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi noted he wanted Uber to help lead a “green recovery” in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns that resulted in an American unemployment rate not seen since the Great Depression. He acknowledged how nice the air had gotten in urban environments (Manhattan still smells like expired milk, FYI) and suggested going back to the before times would be a mistake. We were practically cave people prior to 2020 and have metamorphosed into a higher state of being.
But carbon emissions will return to “normal” soon. When two-thirds of the world’s population was under lockdown in early April, carbon emissions fell 17 [percent] compared to last year. By June, the drop was only 5 [percent]. And the fires that continue to rage across our home state of California are a sobering reminder of the urgency of the climate crisis.
Instead of going back to business as usual, Uber is taking this moment as an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact. It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change. We want to do our part to build back better and drive a green recovery in our cities.
While we’ve taken some important steps in recent years, from expanding micromobility options to offering public transit in the Uber app, we know we’ve got a long way to go. That’s why we’re working with the World Resources Institute, Transport & Environment (T&E), and others to become a stronger partner in the fight against climate change by leveraging our innovation, technology, and talent to expedite the global transition to clean energy.
California’s transition to clean energy doesn’t seem to have stopped those wildfires and has technically diverted billions in funding from energy grid maintenance (and upgrades) for years. This has resulted in occasional blackouts as providers enact shutdowns in an attempt to avoid creating more fires whenever there’s a drought or simply because someone failed to buy sufficient juice in advance. But we’ll not continue poking holes in Uber’s general claims when its offering specific details on its evolving business policies. We just want it to be known that energy management is a mess in California right now and at least one company is proposing all of its drivers buy EVs before 2030.
Of course, that’s just for starters. Uber has similarly vowed to become a carbon-neutral platform (on a global scale) by 2040 — something we’d rank between incredibly difficult and practically impossible. Truth be told, we don’t expect any company making these kinds of claims to ever achieve them. They just look good in a press release and make it seem as though tons of hard work is being done before the promise is swiftly flushed down the old memory hole.
But they’re frequently accompanied by financial commitments and Uber said it would be spending $800 million in resources “to help hundreds of thousands of drivers transition to EVs by 2025.” It also wants to expand its own “multimodal network” to promote sustainable alternatives to personal vehicle ownership and be transparent/accountable as a company.
Look, I will happily swallow the self-serving polls Uber shares to undermine updated California employment laws it doesn’t want to comply with (there may be some truth there). But framing itself as a green company is a bridge too far. The entire business model involves contractors constantly cruising around an urban landscape while they wait for customers. We’ll chalk it up to a necessary evil but numerous studies have proven ride-hailing platforms congest roadways while contributing to air pollution. Forcing drivers to transition into EVs may help eliminate smog directly overhead but the issue will be moved largely elsewhere as power plants are kicked into overdrive to compensate for the above-average draw.
On the upside, most electric vehicles on sale in 2030 should be able to recharge within a handful of minutes and hold enough juice to operate all day in a major metropolitan area if they continue evolving at the present pace. But Uber wants drivers to begin making the swap ASAP, encouraging General Motors to come to the rescue.
GM said it would be teaming up with Uber to offer employee pricing on a brand-new Chevrolet Bolt. Customers just need to prove they’re contracted by the company. It likewise suggested they’d be good for a 20 percent discount on EV accessories (e.g. home-charging systems). Combined with local subsidies designed to get customers into EVs, it should be the cheapest way to get into one that doesn’t involve grand theft auto — even if the automaker already has exhausted its federal tax credit quota.
“Improving access to EVs for on-demand service providers can help reduce overall tailpipe emissions in cities across the country and help accelerate widespread EV adoption,” Sigal Cordeiro, GM executive director of Sales and Marketing for Global Innovation, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Uber will facilitate drivers’ switch to an EV, empowering these drivers, their passengers and communities to experience electric vehicles and contribute to cleaner air in our cities.”