By on September 9, 2020

Uber Technologies has promised to make sure that 100 percent of the vehicles used to convey customers in Europe, Canada, and the United States will be powered entirely by electricity — allotting itself just under a decade for the transition. By 2030, Uber said all cars used on the platform will be required to be of the plug-in variety. At the same time, General Motors announced it would be helping drivers get there by offering juicy discounts on items they’ll be required to buy in preparation for the coming change. That seems incredibly convenient, especially for the purveyors of these soon-to-be-mandatory products.

On Tuesday, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi noted he wanted Uber to help lead a “green recovery” in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns that resulted in an American unemployment rate not seen since the Great Depression. He acknowledged how nice the air had gotten in urban environments (Manhattan still smells like expired milk, FYI) and suggested going back to the before times would be a mistake. We were practically cave people prior to 2020 and have metamorphosed into a higher state of being.

From Uber:

But carbon emissions will return to “normal” soon. When two-thirds of the world’s population was under lockdown in early April, carbon emissions fell 17 [percent] compared to last year. By June, the drop was only 5 [percent]. And the fires that continue to rage across our home state of California are a sobering reminder of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Instead of going back to business as usual, Uber is taking this moment as an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact. It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change. We want to do our part to build back better and drive a green recovery in our cities.

While we’ve taken some important steps in recent years, from expanding micromobility options to offering public transit in the Uber app, we know we’ve got a long way to go. That’s why we’re working with the World Resources Institute, Transport & Environment (T&E), and others to become a stronger partner in the fight against climate change by leveraging our innovation, technology, and talent to expedite the global transition to clean energy.

California’s transition to clean energy doesn’t seem to have stopped those wildfires and has technically diverted billions in funding from energy grid maintenance (and upgrades) for years. This has resulted in occasional blackouts as providers enact shutdowns in an attempt to avoid creating more fires whenever there’s a drought or simply because someone failed to buy sufficient juice in advance. But we’ll not continue poking holes in Uber’s general claims when its offering specific details on its evolving business policies. We just want it to be known that energy management is a mess in California right now and at least one company is proposing all of its drivers buy EVs before 2030.

Of course, that’s just for starters. Uber has similarly vowed to become a carbon-neutral platform (on a global scale) by 2040  something we’d rank between incredibly difficult and practically impossible. Truth be told, we don’t expect any company making these kinds of claims to ever achieve them. They just look good in a press release and make it seem as though tons of hard work is being done before the promise is swiftly flushed down the old memory hole.

But they’re frequently accompanied by financial commitments and Uber said it would be spending $800 million in resources “to help hundreds of thousands of drivers transition to EVs by 2025.” It also wants to expand its own “multimodal network” to promote sustainable alternatives to personal vehicle ownership and be transparent/accountable as a company.

Look, I will happily swallow the self-serving polls Uber shares to undermine updated California employment laws it doesn’t want to comply with (there may be some truth there). But framing itself as a green company is a bridge too far. The entire business model involves contractors constantly cruising around an urban landscape while they wait for customers. We’ll chalk it up to a necessary evil but numerous studies have proven ride-hailing platforms congest roadways while contributing to air pollution. Forcing drivers to transition into EVs may help eliminate smog directly overhead but the issue will be moved largely elsewhere as power plants are kicked into overdrive to compensate for the above-average draw.

On the upside, most electric vehicles on sale in 2030 should be able to recharge within a handful of minutes and hold enough juice to operate all day in a major metropolitan area if they continue evolving at the present pace. But Uber wants drivers to begin making the swap ASAP, encouraging General Motors to come to the rescue.

GM said it would be teaming up with Uber to offer employee pricing on a brand-new Chevrolet Bolt. Customers just need to prove they’re contracted by the company. It likewise suggested they’d be good for a 20 percent discount on EV accessories (e.g. home-charging systems). Combined with local subsidies designed to get customers into EVs, it should be the cheapest way to get into one that doesn’t involve grand theft auto  even if the automaker already has exhausted its federal tax credit quota.

“Improving access to EVs for on-demand service providers can help reduce overall tailpipe emissions in cities across the country and help accelerate widespread EV adoption,” Sigal Cordeiro, GM executive director of Sales and Marketing for Global Innovation, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Uber will facilitate drivers’ switch to an EV, empowering these drivers, their passengers and communities to experience electric vehicles and contribute to cleaner air in our cities.”

[Image: MikeDotta/Shutterstock]

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23 Comments on “Uber Promises Fleet-wide Electrification by 2030, GM Offers Help...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Still not a fan of Uber. Until it becomes a REGULATED taxi service, I see it more as a way to dodge taxes and abuse both customers and drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      Yankee

      Agreed. The old advice of “never get into a car with a stranger” is still true. A neighbor of mine used to run Uber and Lyft in the evenings before the pandemic. I remember when he continued to do so for a month after I told him his rear brakes were into the rotors and two of his tires were bald because he didn’t want to spend the money to fix it. Have a recovering drug addict in the family who wrecked a car Ubering while high on heroin. Not saying all taxis and taxi drivers are safe, but at least there is SOME oversight there. Unregulated ride sharing is just a bad idea all around for many reasons.

    • 0 avatar

      I do not care whom and how they dodge, but I am fan of Uber and hate taxi. Only communists prefer taxi over Uber.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      How many years will an Uber driver have to work just to pay for his/her new GM electric car?
      This smells a bit of the old Company Store, where the workers got into debt to the Company buying substandard commodities at inflated prices and had to work long hours for low pay trying to keep their families fed.

      On the other hand, I live in an area with high unemployment, and when I use Uber on occasion, I feel like I’m helping someone who really needs it, and is working to make a living. (I tend to tip them pretty well, too.)

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Agree 100%. When the CEO of Uber jumps into the vehicle of one of his pawns, and acts like he (the CEO) did, that reveals the true culture of the “company.”

    (I’m glad I don’t remember the name of said, CEO assclown.)

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Travis Kalanick.

      Yes, the culture of Uber is toxic. It’s birthing rite was flagrant, intentional violation of taxi regulations in major US cities. It was an outlaw organization from day one, and has never stopped being an outlaw organization. I do NOT wish it well, and I do NOT use its services.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      If I owned stock in Uber Technologies, I’d be selling it right now. Telling independent drivers using their own cars they have to buy electric vehicles is a good way to chase drivers away.

      There was a rental car company called Rent-A-Wreck that rented older cars in good mechanical condition. I can see Uber’s taxi service replaced by a company, let’s call it “Unter”, using driver-owned “classic” cars.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    UBER, always looking for another gimmick. Self driving was going to save the company, or that was the cover story anyway, but low and behold that’s actually too hard. Now they’re going to be green and get all their power from the overloaded grid powered mostly by fossil fuels. Oops.
    Please describe the desperate loser willing to drive for Uber who’s also willing to buy a long range EV. Taxi drivers, by the way, drive on average about 200 miles a day so your vehicle range needs to be about 250, minimum. The $50,000 cab???? I don’t think so.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “And the fires that continue to rage across our home state of California are a sobering reminder of the urgency of the climate crisis.”

    BS. And if CO2 is the enemy, how much of it is contributed by the California wildfires, at least one of which was caused by the pyrotechnics at a reveal party?

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      People like to live in the woods. And most fires are caused by human activity of one sort or another. Build your dream home among the pines, in an area naturally prone to draught, and wait for the wind to blow. It’s just a matter of when, not if, you’re going to have a fire.
      It’s no different than building your dream home on the Texas coast. There is going to be a hurricane. It will not be a surprise. Your home will be swept away, don’t pretend to be shocked. Your insurance rates should damn well reflect the risks you voluntarily accept.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Good points. Generally, forest fires are human caused, either by negligence (our infamous gas and electric company), arson, vagrants or careless idiots. The hundreds of fires that make up the current calamities were caused by two days of extremely intense lightning storms that moved across the state. That sort of weather is very unusual for California.
        If it were normal, there wouldn’t be any forests left to burn.

  • avatar
    honda1

    This is actually amusing. I seriously doubt this delusional bully “company” is around in 10 years.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Most rideshare drivers wouldn’t be able to afford a Bolt, even at employee pricing. Besides, who wants to spend $30-40k on a vehicle that is going to last at most 3-4 years of full time ride share? Imagine the depreciation! And those federal tax credits are useless for ride share drivers, since after the mileage deduction there isn’t any taxable income left to apply that EV credit to.

    I’m sure Uber has considered that most ride share drivers live in some sort of apartment, with no ability to charge at home.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Also, the Bolt isn’t big enough. A taxi at minimum needs enough space for two adults and their suitcases, assume two each. Not much space behind the back seat of a Bolt. It’s unsuitable as a taxi and it’s range is marginal for a full day of driving. I have a friend who drove a Yellow Cab for 20 years and he preferred vans. He would laugh at a Bolt as a cab, and it would have to be charged during the day and you can’t make money doing that.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        In my market I can get away with a Chevy Cruze. Airport trips with lots of luggage are rarely an issue. But the Bolt is several inches narrower than even my Cruze, which makes it too small to fit 3 across in the back.

        I think this push to be all electric by 2030 is very aspirational for Uber, but it’s not really realistic.

  • avatar
    L

    These startlingly efficient services need to continue to develop novelty and in turn brand loyalty…or they are just going to be undercut by the next slightly more attractive Amazon-Facebook-Apple-Microsoft-backed meat-mover.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      “startlingly efficient services ”

      How can a service firm (sorry “technology company”–in Uber’s regulatory dodging parlance) which has never generated a profit, and has no forseeable path to profitability, be called “startingly efficient?”

      • 0 avatar
        tylanner

        The critical advantage of these services is their ability to quickly and closely match supply with demand. This efficiency maximizes convenience for both drivers and riders and is really their only selling point.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I have read L’s comment a couple of times, and still don’t know whether it is sarcasm or not.

    Perhaps he could clarify?

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Uber’s making a lot of bets here. Does Uber really think EV adoption AND the required supporting fast-charging infrastructure (chargers, chargers, everywhere!) would be widespread enough to assume that thousands of “contractors” under its thumb could afford to own or lease EV’s of the shapes, size, and range needed to service its customers with a 100% EV fleet? Unlikely.

  • avatar

    I have no intention to discuss all the BS statements on this thread but according to my reliable sources by 2030 every new car purchase will be required to be EV. Required by who? Required by California or/and Federal Governments.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      “2030 every new car purchase will be required to be EV.”

      Wouldn’t be surprising. I’m sure the people behind the push to EV’s desperately need the money it will make them. The question is: What urgent thing that needs to be done to save personkind will they use next to move money from our pockets to their pockets? No need to worry; they’ll find something. They always do.

      Khosrowshahi used a lot of good buzz words/phrases here: leveraging (a long and tired way of saying “using”), sustainable, micromobility (does that mean moving tiny distances or moving tiny things?), carbon emissions (I assume they mean CO2 not charcoal briquets). But, he failed to get the word “synergy” in there.

      I think the cab business should be left to real cab companies. Uber has always impressed me as nothing but a grand rip-off.

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