Should Ride-Hailing Vehicles Reduce Emissions?

Driving an electric ride-hailing vehicle may be good for the planet but costly for the driver who may have to limit the distance of rides and search for fast-chargers. Uber is trying to help out.
June 22, 2018, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"It’s hard to drive an electric vehicle for Uber today,” said Adam Gromis, Uber global head of sustainability. 

“Drivers spend a lot of time worrying about whether they can finish the ride without running out of charge, and a lot of time looking for charging stations and charging the vehicles. We’re taking basic first steps to make it easier.”

"Now, Uber is taking actions to help her and other drivers of plug-in cars, after having held focus groups with many of them," reports Carolyn Said for the San Francisco Chronicle on June 19. Strategies include financial incentives and technological perks to inform drivers in eight cities when to turn down rides due to trip length.

In California, transitioning to zero-emission ride-hailing vehicles may not be a voluntary matter if legislation by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) becomes law.

SB 1014 requires the California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC], in regulating transportation network companies [TNCs],  to establish “clean mile” targets. By 2023, at least 20 percent of miles traveled by ride-hail company cars must be zero emission, and 50 percent by 2026. By 2030, all ride-hail vehicles must be zero-emission vehicle or ZEV. 

In April, the CPUC released a research paper, "Electrifying the Ride-Sourcing Sector in California" that asks,
Is there a need for the CPUC to initiate regulatory changes by exercising its jurisdiction over TNCs in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through increased use of electric vehicles (EVs)...? If so, what types of regulatory tools might the CPUC consider? 

Lyft opposes the legislation, "saying that it would hurt lower-income drivers who can’t afford the pricey electric models. Uber is neutral on the bill," adds Said.

Uber hopes to do more to boost electric-vehicle drivers by engaging in advocacy through membership in Veloz.org, a new California nonprofit seeking to accelerate the shift toward electric cars. Both Gromis and Lyft’s Sam Arons are on its board, along with people from utilities, car companies and nonprofits such as the NextGen Policy Center and the Sierra Club.

Skinner's bill passed the Senate and will be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee on June 25.

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Published on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in San Francisco Chronicle
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