Jun 30, 2023 - Economy

Uber sees itself as a global EV ambassador

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images

Uber considers itself a messenger to help popularize electric vehicles (EVs), CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.

  • 40% of U.S. Uber users who ride in an EV say it's their first time in one — and some may go on to lease or purchase one.

What they're saying: "When you experience an EV as a passenger, the experience tends to be a really good experience because the cars that are out there right now … are awesome vehicles," Khosrowshahi said in an interview with NBC's Savannah Sellers.

  • "So [given] that experience … hopefully the next time you go out and get a car, it's an EV."

Why it matters: Uber's global reach and scale give it the potential to accelerate worldwide EV adoption.

  • The company is pushing its drivers to adopt EVs — but its impact on changing rider perception could be more profound.

State of play: In 2020, Uber pledged to electrify its entire U.S., Canadian and European fleets by 2030, and do the same globally by 2040 — though it can only exert so much control over the vehicles drivers use.

  • It's incentivizing drivers with an extra $1 for all EV trips, putting $800 million into the effort.
  • And it's partnering with Hertz and Ford to make EVs available for drivers to rent and test, in hopes of making the decision easier.

Yes, but: Whether Uber drivers — often immigrants and gig workers just trying to get by — will move to EVs, which tend to be more expensive before gas and maintenance savings kick in, remains unknown.

  • Khosrowshahi sidestepped repeated questions about what might happen to drivers who don't make the switch.

The intrigue: Uber drivers put so many miles on their vehicles that he expects them to buy new by 2030 — and the company is incentivizing them to "switch over to green," Khosrowshahi said.

  • Riders also tip more when traveling in EVs, he adds, "because these cars are great."

By the numbers: 5% of Uber's U.S. miles are driven in EVs — but it's 10% in California, where incentives and regulations are pushing drivers toward electric cars.

  • In London, where EVs are exempt from congestion pricing, 20% of Uber’s miles are electric, Khosrowshahi said.

Of note: The incentives for drivers to go electric don't necessarily extend to riders, who are unwilling to pay more to ride in electric cars, he said.

What to watch: The main obstacle to Uber's zero-emissions pledge, Khosrowshahi said, is the lack of affordable EVs.

  • Governments need to offer more incentives and build out more charging stations to make them more practical, he added.
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