Jan 6, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What it will take to electrify ride-hailing

A bolt of electricity with numbers off to the sides

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There's good news and bad news when it comes to curbing carbon emissions from Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services, courtesy of new analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing creates new emissions challenges.

  • A number of analyses show that it's adding to congestion and cannibalizing trips that otherwise would have happened via mass transit or other low-carbon means (like feet!).
  • But, steps to electrify ride-hailing will have spillover effects that boost EV adoption more broadly.

What they found: Current market and tech trends won't do the trick when it comes to getting the industry to go electric on a timeline consistent with aggressive emissions cuts.

  • "We find that, despite rapidly reducing battery costs, ridehailing electrification is not inevitable by 2030. EVs face many barriers in ridehailing applications, aside from just high up-front prices."

Yes, but: The good news is that it's hardly an impossible nut to crack, RMI concludes, although it will take a village that includes state and local policymakers, utilities and big automakers.

How it works: RMI recommends a wide array of steps to make EV ownership for ride-hailing drivers more accessible and competitive with gasoline vehicles. They include...

  • Improving access to home charging, via steps like power company incentives and building code changes. That makes EVs more competitive for drivers who'll miss fewer rides while charging.
  • Implementing programs that lower costs of public charging and encouraging the buildout of public charging infrastructure.
  • Reducing any "barriers of entry" to buying new and used EVs, such as "scrap and replace" incentives, as well as wider adoption of EV rental programs.

Catch up fast: Uber wants EVs to account for 100% of its rides in American, Canadian and European cities by 2030.

  • And Lyft has vowed to have 100% of rides from its platform come from zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.
  • But both companies acknowledge that the targets rely on outside policy changes to succeed.
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