While electrifiying the U.S.’s ride-hailing fleet could have a tremendous impact on reducing emissions, operating an electric vehicle on today’s streets is challenging for drivers. A new program at Uber wants to make it easier for its drivers to go electric—and get more EVs on the road.
“What we’ve learned from drivers is that they love not paying for gas and giving their riders a quiet, smooth, efficient, high-tech ride,” Adam Gromis, Uber’s global lead on sustainability and environmental impact, tells Curbed. “But any EV driver is trying to operate this technology in a world that’s not built for them.”
Uber’s EV drivers must contend with a lack of public charging facilities in the U.S., especially in busy downtown areas, which means locating and driving to places they can plug in. And if they don’t have access to a charge station at night, drivers must factor in long charging times when they could be picking up passengers, which could lead them to miss out on fares.
The new program, named the EV Champions Initiative, will provide assistance to Uber drivers who already use electric vehicles, says Gromis. In the process, Uber will also study how to improve EV adoption rates across the company by working with a group of advocacy and nonprofit partners. Switching to an EV can save drivers money, especially with gas prices on the rise.
“Electric vehicles are a win-win-win scenario for the transportation network company community, riders, and society broadly,” says Garrett Fitzgerald, manager at Rocky Mountain Institute’s Mobility Transformation practice, one of Uber’s partners for the initiative. “The opportunity to reduce pollution and spread awareness of electric vehicles while also increasing earning potential for ride-share drivers is very compelling.”
Gromis says “several thousand drivers” in seven cities are participating in the initiative, including Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. The goal is to provide and analyze five million EV rides over the next year. About four million Uber rides were taken in electric vehicles last year in the U.S. and Canada.
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