Electric cars are growing in popularity in the automotive world, with EVs being selected as “car of the year” by many automotive publications and also as one of the centerpieces of recent federal legislation. Buyers will now get a $7,500 credit (either as a federal tax credit or point-of-sale rebate) for a new car or $4,000 for a used one.
EV sales go up every year, and many large economies have decided to slow or outright ban sales of new internal-combustion engine (ICE) cars in the next decade or two. Even Uber declared it’s going all-EV by 2030. EVs are here and they’re not going away, like it or not.
Uber has ended incentives for Uber Green but is making amends with a new luxury product to capitalize on the interest in EVs. It’s called Comfort Electric, and it may be a way for EV drivers to make more money. What is it, and how will it work? Read on.
What is Uber Comfort Electric?
Uber Comfort Electric is a new rideshare product offered by Uber. Similar to Uber Comfort, it offers premium-priced rides in new premium-priced EVs.
Uber’s PR team explained it’s “our newest way for you to get around town in style and be a part of the climate solution. It’s as simple as tap a button and request a ride in a premium EV…”
Aside from the initial press release, there isn’t much info we could find on the Uber website or app about Comfort Electric.
What Cars are Eligible?
Uber says the eligible cars could vary by city, so check the approved vehicle list for your area, but the bottom line is, with a few exceptions, Tesla, Tesla, Tesla. All Tesla models since 2013 are eligible, and that’s probably got a lot to do with Uber’s Tesla-rental partnership with Hertz.
Ya ask me, the Model 3 isn’t really that premium, especially for taller/larger riders, but the “wow” factor and excitement of riding in a Tesla for many folks means they don’t mind at all, and at least one customer told me he requested Comfort Electric because he wanted to ride in a Tesla. Enjoy your knees in your nostrils, buddy.
If you already have a Tesla, you’re set. If you don’t, you can rent one through Hertz or you can buy one of the other cars on the Comfort Electric list—I looked over the different cities’ approved vehicles pages and as far as I could tell, these are your choices:
- All Audi e-Tron models (not PHEVs)
- BMW iX and i4
- Cadillac Lyriq
- Ford Mustang Mach-E
- Hyundai Ioniq5
- Jag i-Pace
- Kia EV6
- Mercedes EQS
- Polestar 2
- Porsche Taycan
- Tesla Model S, Model 3, X and Y
Yes, they’re all pretty pricey, and what’s worse, almost none of them except for Tesla, Ford and Cadillac will be eligible for the new $7,500 tax credit. However, you might be eligible for the old tax credit until the end of 2022 if you can take delivery by then; take a look at the Mach-e, EV6 and Ioniq5, as the base models start in the low $40,000 range before the tax credit (and they’re pretty good cars).
Of course, these cars are hard to find and usually come with a dealer markup, so proceed with caution and much research.
Where Is Uber Comfort Electric Available?
At this moment, Comfort Electric is in the following cities:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- Las Vegas
As I said, Uber’s website doesn’t really have much information about Comfort Electric eligibility, and as of press time, we didn’t hear back from Uber’s press department with our requests for specific info. I think it’s a safe guess the driver qualifications are the same as Comfort: rating above 4.85 and at least 100 trips.
My experience is that once I’m in a qualifying vehicle, and I’ve driven five of them, the system will start assigning you Comfort Electric trips when you’re in an area that offers them to passengers. You can opt-out on your “preferences” screen, so make sure it’s selected if you’re eligible (the default is set to “accept” but you should check it anyway because Uber).
Do People Use Uber Comfort Electric?
The week I set out to do some Comfort Electric rides, I was in luck. It was early in the Comfort Electric saga, and Uber was offering targeted customers discounts on CE.
On a busy Thursday night during Gay Pride Week in San Francisco, I didn’t have to wait more than five or 10 minutes between Comfort Electric rides, though I did have to drive further to the pickups than I would have with X, Green or Comfort rides.
When I asked people why they used it, they told me it looked interesting and it wasn’t that much more than a regular ride price. I knew they were getting a sizable discount from Uber, but they weren’t aware of the discount.
Uber doesn’t break down pricing for customers before they book a trip or tell them if the fare is inflated or discounted; folks just see a reasonable price and availability in a few minutes, so they book it.
How Many Rides Will I Get?
Judging from the response on the Uber Subreddit and our Facebook EV Driver’s group, not many.
Although I got several rides the night I did Comfort Electric driving, the consensus after a few months of Comfort Electric being available is that at best, you’ll get one Comfort Electric ride to every 10 or 15 X, Comfort or other products.
How Much More Will I Make?
It can be a decent bump if you get some Comfort Electric rides. Rates in San Francisco are significantly more than X or Comfort: 99 cents a mile instead of 72 cents for X and 75 cents for Comfort. The time was 51 cents a minute, compared to 31 cents for X and 38 cents for Comfort.
That’s less than a 30 percent premium, though the minimum supplement is higher as well–$3.11 vs $2.38 and $1.76. That I was making double that rate ($2.00 a mile with a $2.70 base) as a cabbie in the same city 27 years ago would only be added by a bitter old man and is completely irrelevant, so I’ll leave that part out. Even the fact about how people tipped about 25 percent.
Looks like a lot, but $10.55 was from boost, fuel surcharge, ZEV incentive, and bridge toll, which Uber charges customers for both directions. This same ride on X or Green would have been about 25 percent less. Notice no tip: “Premium” customers are just as stingy as regular ones.
How much more you make depends on your strategy and good old-fashioned luck. If you’re a long-ride player, set your destination filter or area preference filter to somewhere far away that is a popular destination and will have rides coming back during a busy time.
A 20-mile trip should make you an extra $10 or so, and I suppose a long Comfort Electric trip might make you what looks like a pile of dough, but Uber’s new up-front pricing pays long-distance rides less and short trips more, which means you might wind up making about the same as an X trip would have paid a few months ago.
If you have an eligible vehicle, and you do a lot of rides, Comfort Electric might make you a small bump in pay, but I wouldn’t finance a vacation home in the south of France based on the munificence of CE.
Should I Get a Qualified EV for Comfort Electric?
What I think this all means is if you already have a qualifying vehicle, this could make you a bit more money, but I wouldn’t drive a long distance into a city offering Comfort Electric in hopes of making a killing with my shiny new EV6 or Model Y.
There isn’t a lot of data out there, but in my opinion, for my earnings style and area, Comfort Electric is similar to XL or Select; a nice little treat to gobble up now and then but not worth getting into more debt over. However, I do recommend using an EV for rideshare if that would work for your earnings style and market.
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