The City of London is getting much-needed help to reach its desire to have electric cars running in the city by 2021 from Uber.
Uber has revealed its plans to add a surcharge to all fares booked via its apps in London to help drivers buy electric vehicles come time.
The fee is tipped to be about 15p/mile and drivers who work for 40 hours per week could get about $1,500 a year from the initiative.
The idea is expected to be introduced ‘early’ in 2019 and is geared towards fighting the problem of air pollution in the capital.
Uber expects the scheme to generate more than £200m ($260m) over the ‘next few years’ to help drivers swap vehicles. Uber currently has about 40m00 drivers in London and hopes the scheme will help 20,000 drivers by 2021 for a start.
The Fight for cleaner air
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said in a statement that the plan was ‘a long-term investment in the future of London aimed at going all electric in the capital in 2025.’
‘Over time, it’s our goal to help people replace their car with their phone by offering a range of mobility options – whether cars, bikes, scooters or public transport – all in the Uber app,’ he added.
Uber says the introduction of the fee will leverage on its other partnerships aimed at improving London’s infrastructure for electric vehicles which have seen it install more charging points.
A spokeswoman for the mayor of London commends Uber’s efforts as a ‘positive step.’
She added: ‘Electric cars are not a complete solution. We also need to address the damaging impact that the rising number of private hire vehicles has on congestion and air pollution.’
The Uber initiative follows shortly after the UK government cut subsidies for buying greener cars from £4,500 to £3,500.
Professor David Bailey, an expert in industrial strategy from Aston University, said the move was a ‘welcome first step.’
‘Uber is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart,’ he said. He said Uber is only aligning with the UK’s push for electric cars as a business decision to help it stay relevant and profitable in the future when there’d be higher restrictions on traditionally powered vehicles.
‘If they don’t act they risk not having any drivers or customers,’ he said.
‘The move to electric cars is going to happen anyway and they want to be seen to be playing their part,’ said Prof Bailey.
Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledges the electric cars infrastructure needs improvement and is looking to play an active part in that development too.
‘The biggest problem is going to be charging,’ he said. Most drivers will not have off-street parking where they can plug in overnight.
‘The city is going to need to invest in it and we’ll need to support them.’
Uber is also considering letting drivers of electric vehicles keep more of the cash passengers pay, Khosrowshahi said.
The push towards electric cars goes beyond helping people own one, lack of charging and fears about range are other concerns.
‘There are still quite significant barriers to electric vehicle take-up,’ said Prof Bailey.
The government and other policymakers need to find smarter ways to get people to move to use electric vehicles.