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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Deploying electric vehicles instead of gasoline-powered models for services like Uber and Lyft provides outsized climate benefits compared to emissions cuts from electric vehicles for only personal use, per a peer-reviewed study in Nature Energy.

Why it matters: The analysis, based on California data, follows explosive growth in ride-hailing in recent years — and evidence that it's cannibalizing more climate-friendly mass transit.

  • The study is based on data provided by Uber and Lyft as well as charging providers, which together provide a detailed look at how the limited number of electric vehicles in the ride-hailing fleets actually operate in the real world.

The big picture: "[T]he potential environmental and emission reduction benefits are approximately three times higher for electric vehicles being used in ride-hailing compared with those of regular vehicle usage in California," finds the paper by Alan Jenn. He's with the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis.

How it works: There's a couple of big reasons expanding what's now a small number of electric vehicles in ride-sharing is helpful from an emissions standpoint.

  • One is that ride-hailing vehicles log lots of miles, so the comparative advantage of a zero-emissions vehicle becomes proportionately higher.
  • And the charging profile of the ride-hailing vehicle is different than cars used only for personal needs. The ride-hailing cars tend to charge during the day when solar penetration on the grid is higher.

Where it stands: The paper comes as California regulators and ride-hailing companies are seeking to increase the amount of electric vehicles used in the industry.

  • Most recently, Lyft announced a goal in June to have 100% electric vehicles (or other zero-emissions models) on its platform by 2030.
  • But the plan assumes significant help from state and federal policymakers.
  • Electric vehicle adoption in ride-hailing is challenging because the vast majority of vehicles are driver-owned and electric vehicles currently have higher up-front costs.

Go deeper: Global electric vehicle sales topped 2 million in 2019

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Transportation's next big thing: flying taxis

Photo: Joby Aviation

The next big thing in transportation could be electric flying taxis — think of a drone crossed with a helicopter — that would ferry people and goods high above congested roadways.

Why it matters: Air taxis are billed as a cheaper, faster, cleaner mode of transportation, and an important link between remote areas and population centers. But there are still technical and regulatory challenges to overcome — not to mention public skepticism.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Electric vehicle sales far surpass pandemic expectations

Data: EIA; Note: 2020 figures are preliminary; Chart: Axios Visuals

New International Energy Agency preliminary data shows that worldwide sales grew by an estimated 40% last year, exceeding the agency's expectations.

Why it matters: The increase occurred despite a drop on overall global vehicle sales.