IS there some sort of a narrative emerging here? The requirement for ride hailing companies and taxis to go green – to meet targets the ride hailing companies have already said they would meet?
I say this because I am slightly bemused by a new survey from Transport & Environment, a European non-governmental organisation campaigning for cleaner transport.
In association with YouGov, the Transport & Environment survey says that more than half of its respondents are willing to pay more for their ride hails if they were electric.
The 52% who responded positively to the suggestion said they were willing to pay an additional 15-20 cents (euro) per km for a zero-emission ride (about 13p-17p) as part of a campaign to uncover the #TrueCostOfUber.
This was particularly true in the 18-24 age group who responded most positively to the idea (60%).
Transport & Environment estimates London and Paris are responsible for adding the equivalent CO2 of 250,000 privately owned cars to the road thanks to the company’s expanding operation. Transport & Environment says data from 2017 showed that 90% of Parisian private hire vehicles were diesel.
Yoann Le Petit, new mobility expert with Transport & Environment, added:
“Uber’s customers are wise to its air pollution and are even willing to chip in for a clean ride. Now Uber must do its fair share for the climate and our health. Thus, the #TrueCostOfUber campaign urges the company to electrify its fleet in its 10 biggest European cities by 2025.”
2000 Nissan Leaf Deal Part Of Uber Clean Air Plan
Nevertheless, Nissan and Uber recently negotiated a deal earlier in January 2020 that will enable its drivers to access 2,000 all-electric Sunderland-built Nissan Leafs. Uber wants every car operating in the capital city to use a fully electric car by 2025 – coincidentally the very year mentioned by Transport & Environment.
The agreement is part of Uber’s Clean Air Plan, announced in 2018, to make every one of its London car hailing vehicles electric by that 2025 date.
Under the Clean Air Plan a ‘clean air fee’ of 15p per mile has been included on every trip booked through the Uber app in London since the beginning of January 2019. The money raised is used to help drivers upgrade to an electric vehicle. On an average trip in London, Uber says it expects a clean air fee of around 45p.
According to the Financial Times, the clean air fee has raised in excess of £80m so far.
Jamie Heywood, who is Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, explained:
“Our bold vision for London is for every driver on the Uber app to use an all-electric vehicle by 2025. The partnership with Nissan is a hugely significant step towards meeting this goal. The Mayor of London has shown strong leadership on measures relating to air quality and we’re proud to support him in delivering his vision.”
Under the terms of the Nissan/Uber agreement, Nissan will supply a dedicated EV education programme, transaction price and marketing plan to drive uptake of the zero emission vehicles with Uber drivers.
Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan, added:
“Through innovation and collaboration, companies like Nissan and Uber can tackle the challenges of advancing personal urban mobility, whilst also improving air quality in our major cities. As the UK’s best-selling EV, the Nissan LEAF is the perfect vehicle to support Uber’s ambition of a 100% electric fleet in London for 2025. Not only will passengers enjoy the quieter ride that comes from all-electric driving, but cyclists, pedestrians and other road users will also benefit from the zero-emissions powertrain.”
All New London Private Hire Vehicles Must Be Electrified
It should also be noted there is now a requirement from London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for all newly licensed private hire vehicles which are under 18 months old to be plug-in hybrid, electric or hydrogen vehicles from January 01, 2020.
Visitors to London will have also noticed a greater number of the electric TX cabs around. The TX features a range-extender – a small petrol engine that powers the battery for a total range of 377 miles and full zero-emission range of 80 miles.
Made by The London EV Company, owned by Geely Volvo’s parent, the company reported that it closed 2019 having doubled sales to 2507 models.
There has also been a fleet of 27 hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai cars operated by private hire firm Green Tomato Cars in London. As of October 2019, the cars had driven a milestone one million zero-emission miles in and around the capital, saving a massive 206 tonnes of CO2, with zero NOx.
Jonny Goldstone, founder and CEO of Green Tomato Cars, said:
“Our passengers love the Mirai because it means they can travel as responsibly as possible, and so do our drivers. Running costs are comparable with a Prius and re-fuelling takes the same time as a conventional petrol car. We’re rolling out the next 25 Mirai onto our fleet right now and hopefully there will be still more to come.”
So What Are We To Make Of The #TrueCostOfUber Campaign?
Transport & Environment usually takes an interesting and informed viewpoint. But this report – at least for London – is somewhat out of kilter with what is happening in the industry already.
The requirement for a clean air levy has been in place for over a year on all Uber London rides, while the London Mayor’s new requirements for private hire vehicles mean new vehicles must be electrified.
Certainly when I operated from an office in central London some four years ago I was thankful for the number of Uber and private hire Prius cars running around – their silent running and lower emissions were a stark contrast to the polluting lines of old London diesel taxis stuck in London’s stationary traffic.
But as we have seen, that is changing already – the TX electric range extender taxi is becoming a common sight in London
Of course, Transport & Environment’s viewpoint is wider – and while I cannot comment on other cities, experience of Brussels and Paris suggests that these cities need to decarbonise swiftly.
Pierre Dornier, the president of the citizens movement Les chercheurs d’air (Brussels), makes the point well:
“Brussels, the capital of Europe, seriously suffers from air pollution and congestion. It cannot afford companies like Uber adding to the diesel and gasoline cars on its streets. Uber must be part of the solution, not the problem.”
What Uber would do well to heed is the calls for it to expand its Clean Air Plan to other UK cities in which it operates.
Tellingly, my last three Uber trips in London have all been hybrid – either a Toyota Prius or a Toyota C-HR. But my last trip outside London was not – a Citroen Picasso.
With the spread of Clean Air Zones throughout the UK, ride hailing firms and private hire companies need to reassess their approach to cleaner vehicle usage: whether that’s Ola, a local private hire company, Uber, or Kapten.