Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty

While they reportedly contribute to a surge in urban traffic, the nation's two largest ride-sharing companies — Uber and Lyft — say cuts in emissions or carbon credit offsets may counterbalance the added pollution for which they are responsible.

Why it matters: Axios reported on Sunday that the ride-hailing companies appear to have produced a surge of congestion in nine major U.S. cities, citing a major new study. That potentially undermines the public image carefully nurtured by both Uber and Lyft, which market themselves as green companies.

The details: Ride-sharing services are making a play at increasing their sustainability efforts. Lyft's sustainability director Sam Arons announced in April they're offsetting emissions for all miles driven indefinitely.

"We are the first and only ride-sharing company that is carbon neutral," Arons told Axios.

  • Lyft hopes that half its rides are shared by 2020 following a recent app redesign that highlights shared rides. Currently, about 35% of Lyft's rides are shared.
  • The company anticipates that their carbon offsets will cost millions each year, but won't have accurate cost estimates until the end of the year.
    • "The amount of offsets we'll need to buy will probably go up in coming years because we'll be growing. But we'll be investing in low and zero emission vehicles to bring those costs down. We've built a financial incentive to emit less into our business model."
  • Lyft bought Motivate, the country's largest bike-share business just weeks ago.

Uber has not invested in offsets, but hopes that the lower fuels costs of driving a hybrid or electric vehicle motivate their drivers.

  • Uber's sustainability director Adam Gromis explained to Axios that 6% of the miles on Uber's platform were on hybrids, even though hybrid sales are stuck at 2%-3%.
  • Uber launched an EV Champions Initiative in seven cities this year that offers cash incentives to drivers with electric cars.
  • Uber operates uberGreen in some European cities, which provides electric cars at UberX fares.
  • Uber bought electric bike share company Jump in March and invested in Lime, which operates scooters and bikes that it will add to the app's platform.

What to watch: Lyft recently introduced a statement of opposition against a California bill that would require that ride-hailing fleets be 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2028. Uber says it does not support or reject the bill.

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