By on June 18, 2020

On Wednesday, ride-hailing company Lyft announced every vehicle using its platform will be electric by 2030. Since its fleet is comprised primarily of contractors using private vehicles, one might assume the company is planning to offer some financial assistance upon their next purchase. But being sensible rarely means being correct in the postmodern era.

Rather than encouraging its own drivers to make the switch, Lyft plans to work with NGOs, lawmakers, and pressure its industry rivals to make electrification mainstream. Obviously, this will include financial incentives for organizations willing to make the switch to EVs in exchange for a fat wad of cash. That’s what you’re now supposed to focus on. Ignore that Lyft’s announcement literally offers no personal commitment and passes every scrap of responsibility it pretends to be taking on to the government.

Lyft is trying to play the hero, and thinking about it too hard is going to muck everything up. 

Environmental activists have starting coming down hard on outfits like Lyft and Uber after data began suggesting their business models create a lot of unwanted emissions. Cruising around an urban environment seeking out fares has a way of doing that. We already know they contribute to congestion, making extra pollution the natural byproduct.

“Now more than ever, we need to work together to create cleaner, healthier, and more equitable communities,” John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, said in a statement. “Success breeds success, and if we do this right, it creates a path for others. If other rideshare and delivery companies, automakers and rental car companies make this shift, it can be the catalyst for transforming transportation as a whole.”

Currently, the only EVs in the company’s fleet are baked into its Express Drive rental program — making up less than 1 percent of all vehicles operating under its banner. Most drivers (mainly from Uber) have told us that all-electric isn’t their preference, however. Waiting for a car to charge and having to adhere to a smaller operating area isn’t idyllic when you’re getting paid by the fare. That’s bound to change as battery technology continues to improve, but it’ll be the cost factor that matters most, as the brunt of these cars have a second life as personal transportation and it’s not Lyft doing the shopping.

However, the company remains positive that government action will help EVs reach parity with internal combustion vehicles by 2025, encouraging all drivers to make the swap. Modern electrics tend to cost substantially more than gas burners; however, depending on the type of driving you need done, they can be an excellent (sometimes superior) alternative and offer annual gas savings that ultimately lower the overall costs of ownership, at least until you need a new battery. Still, it takes a long time to get there, as annual gas and maintenance savings need to add up over a period of years and many thousands of miles. Government subsidies also need to be taken into account.

From Lyft:

But to reach our commitment by the end of 2030, we will need to harness the power of Lyft and its partners to drive radical change. It will require the collective action of industry, government, and nonprofit organizations to overcome the two significant barriers currently preventing wide-scale electrification: up-front cost of the vehicle and access to reliable, affordable charging. So we’ll be working with the experts at Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental leaders to accelerate progress towards our commitment. This will include advancing a policy roadmap and catalyzing the development of tools to help drivers electrify, as described in more detail in our Path to Zero Emissions plan. And we’re also joining The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative to help kick-start our work. As the newest member of EV100, and the largest in terms of vehicle-related commitments, we’ll be collaborating with a group of forward-looking companies committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and making electric transport the new normal by 2030. Our commitment is a long-term effort and Lyft will provide periodic updates with key project milestones.

By taking these steps, we are not only improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation, we’re helping to make our communities cleaner, healthier, and more equitable for everyone.

Discussing the merits of EVs is often perilous for us, as it always looks like we’re coming down on them unnecessarily. While electric vehicles offer loads of unique benefits, the rhetoric supporting them is often propagandized to make them seem better than they are — at least at this juncture.

Your author recently read an article in Nature (Volume 580 from April 2020, if you’re a subscriber) that showed people tend to underestimate the overall cost of running a gas-powered car. The article was posted in a segment entitled “Setting the agenda in research” and automatically presumes EV ownership will cost less without providing much supportive or clarifying data. It then goes on to recommend public policies that would spur the adoption of green vehicles by making internal combustion cars undesirable via government action (subsidies, limiting ICE parking, ending urban access, raising fuel prices, etc.) and ends by supporting Europe’s Green Deal.

It’s science-based but agenda-driven — and one of the main reasons why it’s increasingly difficult to take Nature (and a lot of other publications) seriously. That outlet also apologized to the Chinese government in April for reporting that COVID-19 was linked to Wuhan, despite that being verifiably true. But this is a far greater issue than one magazine adjusting its writing to maintain its presence in as many countries as possible. There’s an uncomfortably aggressive push to frame anything critical of any green technology as a unscientific, and outlets tailor valid information to appease those hurt by it.

Remember that Michael Moore film that came out against green solutions, to the surprise of everyone familiar with his work? That was taken down by YouTube due to “copyright infringement” after enraging climate activists. They claimed it promoted misinformation (eco-fascism) and was dangerous to leave floating around online. Having made sufficient noise about censorship, Moore eventually managed to get his film back up. Yet it’s another worrying example that the discussions regarding green tech (and a number of other topics) aren’t being handled in an open and honest manner. If this keeps up, we might see entities begin taking truly stupid/selfish actions and acting like they’re heroes … oh… right.

“As we move to repair the COVID-battered global economy, we have a chance to rebuild better and create a cleaner, more prosperous and more equitable future. Getting there will require investing in clean energy to create jobs and reduce pollution, and radically shifting how we move people and products,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Lyft’s commitment accelerates momentum toward this future and sets the standard for other tech and transportation leaders to follow suit.”

By our estimate, Lyft’s “commitment” accelerates nothing more than the Environmental Defense Fund’s agenda. And that would be fine, if it was handled in an open and honest way that actually involved the brand making a genuine commitment beyond begging the government to do the hard work for them. Lyft is a company that’s propped up by contractors it doesn’t even consider employees and investors that offset its inability to turn a profit.

Maybe it shouldn’t spend its time lecturing everyone else on how the world should be.


[Image: Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock]

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16 Comments on “Lyft Promises to Swap Exclusively to EVs by Bullying Everyone...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Lyft’s announcement literally offers no personal commitment and passes every scrap of responsibility it pretends to be taking on to the government”

    Good summary, and their pronouncement is BS. If Lyft still exists in 10 years, they’ll follow the money and not the agenda they embraced in 2020.

    It’s hard to believe 3- or 5-year plans, let alone 10-year plans.

    • 0 avatar

      If Lyft goes down this path, it won’t exist at some point as its driver contractors will switch to Uber or perhaps a third jitney cab company will emerge promising not to bully its drivers. If the ROI was there for the contractors AND they had the coin, they would have already switched. In some use-cases it may give good ROI, but certainly not all.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    If one allows the “silent hand of the market” play its hand, what will happen is that anyone who is considering becoming a Lyft “partner”, will take a long hard look at the economics of all of it, and decide that it may not be worthwhile.

    • 0 avatar

      The economics of driving ride share are questionable to begin with. A high priced, quickly depreciating and slow to refuel EV will not help that cause.

  • avatar

    Obviously this Lyft stuff is a mirage as most ride hailing will be done by the million Tesla robotaxis on the road by the end of this year.

  • avatar

    If Lyft were to add 10-20% to the compensation for drivers who use electric vehicles, then the drivers might decide that it’s economically viable to do this.
    But who drives for Lyft for as long as it would take to pay off an electric car?
    A person with no other employment options isn’t going to be shopping for a new car, especially one that is more expensive than most similar options.
    And since Uber and Lyft don’t allow drivers to use cars more than a few years old, that driver will be making payments forever.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve read analyses that most folks in the gig economy (delivering people and/or goods) who utilize their own vehicle are not making any net profit after accounting for true costs of replacement/depreciation.

      • 0 avatar

        “I’ve read analyses that most folks in the gig economy (delivering people and/or goods) who utilize their own vehicle are not making any net profit after accounting for true costs of replacement/depreciation.”

        If that were true why isn’t the word out in force? Why would people bother driving if there was a good chance they won’t ever break even or possibly lose money? It’s not like a lottery ticket where the barrier to entry is a buck and the pitch is the dream of winning big – here it’s actual hours of work. Do that a few times in a row only to find your mattresses is just getting thinner you should get passed off enough to quit, hopefully to also spread the word if anything to friends and family. Some do, why dosen’t everyone? Embarrassment? Poor math skills? Brainwashing? Sunk costs fallacy? Pride? Hush money?

        • 0 avatar

          Many drivers only do it part time, so the depreciation isn’t as big an issue. Full time drivers buy inexpensive vehicles to minimize the costs of depreciation.

          Yes it is true that even full time drivers show minimal net profit after all expenses, but you could say the same for many small businesses.

          So why do it? Freedom. Not having a set schedule, not having a boss, not being a part of the toxic and mind numbing corporate office environment, etc is very freeing.

  • avatar

    Lyft’s ultimate goal is to replace their human drivers with autonomous vehicles, a more obtainable goal if said vehicles run on electrons and can self-charge. Forcing the widespread electrification of its fleet without caring how it impacts their unwanted contractors is just a step towards that goal.

  • avatar

    You guys fail to understand something – by 2030 there will be no new vehicles with ICE and Lyft just acknowledges it. In 2030 you will be mocked or even worse – called fascist, if you drive air polluting ICE car.

  • avatar

    Here in La La Land I’m seeing ever older and filthier lyft & uber cars…..

    I don’t get it it’s one hell of a way to run an airline so to speak .


  • avatar

    Lyft has already made other driver unfriendly changes to its vehicle requirements by eliminating subcompact cars and drastically limiting the age of the vehicles it accepts, while simultaneously lowering rates. If the barrier to entry becomes “spend $40k on an EV and figure out how to charge it” then that will eliminate most of the people who currently gravitate to ride share driving.

  • avatar

    “Maybe it shouldn’t spend its time lecturing everyone else on how the world should be.”

    I appreciate this lecture lecturing the lecturers at Lyft about how they shouldn’t lecture everyone. /S

    July’s recommended reading: “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
    tl;dr: “Bearing no downside for one’s actions means that one has no ‘Skin In The Game’, which is the source of many evils.”

  • avatar

    AtoB wants to know why people drive for these services when in the long run they don’t make money.

    You may as well ask:
    Why do people use credit cards when it costs them high interest?
    Why do people take payday loans when it costs them extremely high interest?
    Why do people take low-wage jobs when it carries the staggering opportunity cost of not training in a better-paid career instead?

    These are absurd questions to anyone who has ever been poor. People do these things because they need money NOW. The landlord posted a 3-day PRQ notice on the door. The electricity company sent a final notice in the mail. They need the money RIGHT NOW. You’d be astonished at the number of Uber drivers who pay the fee to cash in their daily earnings right away rather than waiting around for their paycheck; that’s how urgently they need the money. (You’d be astonished how many Uber drivers live in their cars too, but you probably don’t want to think too much about that one.)

    I’ve driven for Uber and Lyft. I liked it, as a hobby that works with my insomnia. I knew the pocket money I was earning at the time would come back to bite me as a big fat chunk out of my car’s resale value, and it did. But if the wolf had been at my door, the impact on resale value three years later would have been the least of my concerns.

    • 0 avatar

      There you go again ! .

      Using common sense, facts and logic .

      Shame on you ~ the overlords will not be pleased .

      “Poor” is more a state of mind than anything else but u1nless you’ve been taught critical thinking it’s hard to make the change .

      Those rip off payday loans and hokey ‘credit repair’ places have been on my mind of late because they’re going to force many into homlesslness .

      If you pay off your credit cards every month there’s no interest, if you’re sharp your credit cards don’t even have carrying fees .

      If you cannot pay your credit cards off monthly, STOP BUYING SO MUCH CRAP .

      If _I_ could manage this on a sub minimum wage in California, anyone can, anywhere .


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