Uber failing electrification mission, new data reveals

Uber failing electrification mission, new data reveals
Credit: Бесплатный фотобанк/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Ride-hailing firm Uber has made scant progress towards its goal of electrifying half of its car fleets in seven major European cities by 2025, according to new data. In Brussels, just 0.01% of rides are in an electric car.

Uber announced late in 2020 that half of its services in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid and Paris would be zero-emissions by 2025, in a bid to green its corporate credentials.

More than one year on from its electro-pledge, Uber is barely scraping above a 5% average for those seven capitals, according to data compiled by clean mobility group Transport & Environment (T&E).

Amsterdam (6%), Lisbon (9%) and London (6%) top the charts, while Berlin (0.55%), Brussels (0.01%), Madrid (0.15%) and Paris (1%) are all lagging significantly behind, with just over three years to go until Uber’s self-imposed deadline.

The marked difference between the e-mobility uptake rates reflect the fact that city authorities in the Dutch and UK capitals legally require firms to ditch polluting vehicles, while in the others, no such regulations yet exist.

T&E’s electric car expert Saul Lopez insists that “Uber should be doing more but so should governments”, adding that electrification mandates and effective ultra low emissions zones are proven ways of cleaning up transport.

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London recently extended the range of its long-running ultra-low emissions zone, while in Lisbon – where the highest rate of e-vehicle rides is recorded – private hire vehicles can only access its low emission zone if they are zero-emissions.

Brussels’ negligible 0.01% rate can be explained by a combination of factors, including low-emission zone access criteria which will only start to really tighten in 2022 and 2025, as well as strict rules for private hire vehicle licences that limit the choice of cars available to drivers.

Uber’s 50% target is also an average across the seven cities, meaning that if the pace of fleet electrification in some cities increases significantly, less effort will be needed in others.

The ride-hailing firm typically does not own the cars its drivers use – although it does in some cases lease larger vehicles itself – meaning it is often not directly in charge of its fleet’s decarbonisation destiny.

Rental car companies differ in that respect and last week, Hertz announced a deal with Tesla for 100,000 cars by the end of 2022. Up to half of those cars could be made available to Uber drivers if vehicle deliveries are made as planned.

More chargers needed

Electric car purchase subsidies, scrappage schemes and tax breaks are available to differing degrees across Europe, but for Uber’s purposes, the biggest catalyst to electrifying their fleet is access to charging infrastructure.

Given the nature of ride-hailing services, guaranteed and hassle-free access to a plug is an important consideration which cities will need to provide if they want to push polluting vehicles off their roads, according to NGOs like T&E.

Earlier this week, the Brussels Government announced that the number of public chargers would double from the current 250 to 500 in 2022, with the aim that the city’s inhabitants are never more than 250 metres from a plug.

“With this first batch of charging points, we will also install around thirty charging points exclusively dedicated to car-sharing, and we will test an innovative solution of charging points on public lighting,” the government’s climate minister, Alain Maron said in a statement.

The goal is to install some 11,000 chargers by 2035, while at the EU level, the European Commission wants to see 1 million installed by 2025.

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