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Published on May 25th, 2020 | by Johnna Crider

California May Soon Mandate Uber & Lyft Shift To Electric Vehicles

May 25th, 2020 by Johnna Crider

California wants more EVs for Uber and Lyft, and may have a plan to make that happen.

People who drive for Uber and Lyft often heavily depend on that income, whether it is secondary or primary. The demand for these services has been much lower lately due to the current pandemic, which is hurting them.

For people like me, without a car, I used Uber often until the pandemic struck and I stayed home and started using Instacart to have my groceries delivered. I chose this method because just like with Uber and Lyft, these drivers depend on their tips and income.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, though, California believes now is the time for Uber and Lyft to get their act together environmentally. The state is planning to mandate a phased shift to electric vehicles for transportation network companies. In a public workshop held last week (via a conference call), the California Air Resources Board (CARB) talked about how it is going to do this.

The Big Problem with Uber & Lyft

Carbon Footprint

The main issue Uber & Lyft have is that transportation networks such as these contribute about 1% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions for the light-duty vehicle sector. That amount is growing rapidly — or was until the state went into lockdown. The state also noted that transportation in general contributes to half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. 70% of that comes from light-duty vehicles.

You may think, “well, people are going to be driving anyway,” but there are a few ways that Uber and Lyft add to emissions rather than simply replacing them.

Deadhead Miles

The state released some data in 2019: 39% of ride-hailing trips are “deadhead miles.” This term refers to miles driven by the driver returning to or from the trip. This creates 50% more greenhouse-gas emissions than the average car trip. You wouldn’t drive to work and then back home in the morning and then repeat that in the evening. You’d just make one round trip. Even if Uber and Lyft drivers don’t go to such an extreme, they do add the vehicle miles traveled.

These vehicles also idle a lot. In between routes (when not driving between them), drivers often sit in their cars while scrolling their phones or such and waiting for another person to pick up, with the engine running, air conditioning on, etc. Even worse, the driver may go in circles while waiting for another pickup.

The extra traffic created from Uber and Lyft drivers (see above) also means others cars are stuck on the road longer as well, with all the extra emissions that come from that.

The Idea Isn’t New

The idea of making Uber and Lyft use only EVs isn’t old. In 2019, it was reported that Los Angeles may require it. This came from the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, who told the Financial Times that the EV requirement was one idea being considered to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. “We have the power to regulate car share. We can mandate, and are looking closely at mandating, that any of those vehicles in the future be electric.”

Financial/Equity Challenges

The downside of mandating this is that those who don’t drive EVs may end up losing a stream of income or be forced to buy an EV, which they may not be able to afford. The good news is that Tesla has pushed the EV market so hard that we now have EVs with much more range at a much lower cost than we had a few years ago. This makes the idea of owning an EV more approachable to the average working American.

Also, maybe the state could give incentives to those driving for Uber and Lyft to switch to EVs. This would not only reward them but also help those who may need the extra push when it comes to buying an EV.

How Could This Plan Work?

Green Car Reports shared that the regulation will be focused around the idea of percentage of electric vehicle miles traveled (eVMT).

“Under two preliminary strategies, CARB would bring the percentage of eVMT from an estimated 5% in 2023 up to either 32% or 51% in 2030 — and lower emissions from 250 grams per passenger mile traveled today to between 38.4 and 68.6 grams in 2030. Overall, the strategies could raise the number of zero-emissions vehicles actively used in ride-hailing to 400,000 by 2030.”

Plug-in hybrids have no role in this policy because there’s no easy way to confirm the miles driven for Uber or Lyft are driven on electricity.

Se more Lyft and Uber cleantech coverage over the years.

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About the Author

Johnna Crider is a Baton Rouge artist, gem and mineral collector, and Tesla shareholder who believes in Elon Musk and Tesla. Elon Musk advised her in 2018 to “Believe in Good.” Tesla is one of many good things to believe in. You can find Johnna on Twitter

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