UPDATED, Jan. 13, 2021: Uber this week announced it will expand its electric vehicle (EV) ride option, Uber Green, to more than 1,400 North American cities including Houston, Miami, New York, Austin, TX and Washington, DC. The option will also be rolled into the Uber Pass membership service, offering those riders 10% off Green trips.
"It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to reduce emissions and help drive a green recovery in our cities," wrote Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of mobility and business operations, in a blog post.
Along with the expansion, Uber detailed a number of steps it will take in 2021 to advance electrification across its platform, including partnerships with EV rental and charging companies to support drivers' vehicle transitions. Aside from the electrification updates, Uber also detailed expansions to its Journey Planning and Transit features to further support alternatives to personal vehicles.
- Uber announced Tuesday a commitment to becoming a zero emissions mobility platform across its 10,000 cities and six continents by 2040. The company is striving for 100% of its rides to take place in zero-emission vehicles, public transit and micromobility.
- In a press conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi detailed four key actions the company will take to meet this goal:
- Expanding Uber Green to incentivize riders in choosing zero-emission vehicles
- Committing $800 million to help drivers transition to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025
- Increasing investments in micromobility and public transit solutions
- Increasing public transparency, starting with the launch of its first-ever Climate Assessment and Performance Report.
- The company touted the work of the World Resources Institute and Transportation & Environment in helping to build this sustainability framework.
In the wake of COVID-19, the transportation industry has set its sights on a green global recovery that would help cities build back their economies in ways that prioritize existing emission reduction goals. Khosrowshahi recognized that the onus is on everyone — including major private sector players — to participate in these recovery efforts through "unprecedented action."
"COVID-19 didn't change the fact that climate change remains an existential threat and crisis that needs every person, every business and every nation to act," Khosrowshahi said. "We want to take this moment as an opportunity to do more, to do better, and to do our part to drive a green recovery in our cities."
And while this commitment is a step forward for Uber, it's not the first transportation tech giant to introduce such sustainability goals. In June, Lyft pledged for all vehicles on its platform to be electric by 2030, a move it said illustrates a "radical shift in strategy" for the company.
Shin-pei Tsay, director of policy, cities and transportation at Uber, acknowledged this earlier move by saying Uber is "not the first to set bold goals, but we do intend to be the first ride-sharing company to make these goals happen."
"The world is at a critical juncture. The issue of climate change is bigger than business. It’s the air that we breathe, the cities we call home, and most importantly the people and the lives we cherish," she said. "We're doing this because we have to, for our shared future."
Uber was strategic in how it laid out its zero emissions roadmap, emphasizing the importance of action over promise. In sharing the four key actions of its plan, Uber officials unveiled various investments and partnerships:
1. Expanding Uber Green
Uber Green, a program that enables riders to request an EV or hybrid vehicle for an extra $1 per ride, will expand to 15 U.S. and Canadian cities, bringing the total of Uber Green cities to 52 globally. The company aims to expand the program to more than 65 cities by the end of 2020.
2. Committing $800 million for EV fleet expansion
Uber will commit $800 million in resources to assist drivers across the U.S., Canada and Europe in transitioning to electric or hybrid vehicles by 2025. Drivers who transition to a hybrid or electric vehicle will receive up to $1.50 in extra cash per ride, dependent on the type of vehicle purchased.
To assist these drivers in their vehicle transitions, Uber has teamed up with a number of vehicle manufacturers, EV rental companies and charging network providers to offer specialized discounts and offers on vehicles or charging. Additionally, Uber is consulting with partners to produce "a global road map for enabling 100% EV on-demand mobility in major cities by or before 2030," according to a blog post.
3. Investing in micromobility and public transit
Uber has made significant moves in its micromobility and transit sectors this year, most recently investing $85 million to fold its JUMP e-bike and e-scooter business into Lime's operations. Uber has now integrated Lime into its app across 55 cities with more integrations to come, according to David Reich, head of Uber Transit.
Reich unveiled the expansions of a number of features that aim to connect riders with transit. Uber's Journey Planning feature will soon roll out in six new cities (including Dallas, Miami and Portland, OR), while its in-app ticketing capability will expand to more than 10 cities this year. The company will also launch a new feature dubbed Uber X and Transit, that will enable riders in select cities to combine UberX with real-time transit information to plan a multimodal journey. Chicago and Sydney will pilot the feature this month.
Reich also said his team is "not giving up on Uber Pool," despite the current health risks associated with shared rides. Uber will expand its Nonstop Shared Rides feature to all cities where Uber Pool is available, "as soon as it's safe to do so," the company said.
4. Increasing public transparency
"We know progress first requires taking an honest look at where our impact stands today and sharing those results publicly so we can be accountable," Tsay said in the press call. To assess its current impact, Uber unveiled its first Climate Assessment and Performance Report, making it the "only rideshare company ... to measure and report on emissions from customers' real-world use of its product," according to a blog post.
The report analyzes data collected from 4 billion rides between 2017 and 2019 to detail Uber's carbon intensity, the efficiency of its platform compared to personal vehicles or taxis and the barriers to electrification. "While Uber has made progress in recent years, these results show that we must do much better," the report reads.
While Uber's broad climate commitment aligns with the goals of the cities it serves, not everyone is convinced the company will be able to meet its targets by 2040. Many critics took to Twitter to question if the company waited too long to make these commitments, while some questioned if Uber will still be a leading transportation company in another 20 years.
This zero emissions plan also leans heavily on the will of Uber drivers to purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle, which may be difficult in the current economic crisis, regardless of available incentives. Uber does not hire any of its drivers as full-time employees despite legal pressures to reevaluate such labor practices.