In December, Uber announced plans to become a ‘fully zero-emission platform by 2040’, with 100% of rides taking place in zero-emission vehicles. In addition, Uber announced it was setting a goal to have 100% of rides take place in electric vehicles by 2030.
Understandably, some readers were skeptical about how this would work. In today’s announcement by Uber, they expand on how they plan to make this goal a reality, including expanding the Uber Green program to 1400+ new cities (previously, it was only available in 50+ cities globally), among other plans.
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Updated: Drivers Will No Longer Get 50 Cents per Uber Green Trip
Per an announcement by Uber in March 2022, Uber Green drivers will no longer receive an additional 50 cents per Green trip, as Uber decided to remove this surcharge for passengers.
If Uber’s communications department had to write a press release announcing the end of all life on Earth, it would likely start with, “Great news! You’ll never have to file your income taxes or visit your in-laws ever again!” So when I saw the first line of the email from Uber titled, “Uber Green pricing and surcharge change,” was “[o]ur goal is to increase demand for trips in low-emission vehicles—it’s good for the planet and good for drivers like you,” I suspected it wouldn’t really be good for drivers like me. Not my first rodeo.
Unlike your typical Uber driver, Uber itself is a glass-half-full kinda entity and assures us that “[a]lthough you’ll no longer receive $0.50 per Green trip from the rider surcharge, you’ll continue to receive the Temporary Fuel Surcharge of $0.45-$0.55 for all Uber trips, including Uber Green trips.” In other words, you lucky ducks, we’re not taking away all your incentives for driving a more costly hybrid or battery-electric vehicle.
But you may be wondering what is Uber Green? Continue reading below to learn more about the Green program.
As a quick note, there are two Uber emissions programs in the US.
The first is the Zero Emissions Incentive, which pays EV drivers (you must drive an EV for 90 percent of all your Uber rides) in the US and Canada an extra dollar a ride, up to $4,000 a year. That dollar comes from Uber; unlike the recently instituted Fuel Surcharge, it’s paid out as an incentive like Surge or Quest (you won’t get notified after the trip anymore that you got it; look to the bottom of your “Trip Details” report in the “Earnings” tab of your Uber app).
Uber Green is a completely separate program offered in 100 markets in the US and Europe. In the States, passengers can select the Uber Green option over Uber X or other products; they pay a $1 surcharge split between Uber and the driver. In return, the passenger will ride in some type of “green” vehicle, be it a fuel-cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or EV.
Starting April 15th, there will no longer be a surcharge for these rides, which Uber hopes will lead to more demand for Uber Green trips, helping the company reach its zero-emissions target by 2030.
The response from Uber drivers was a surprising “who cares?” As of March 30th, there was no mention of it in the Reddit-Uber or Uber People forums, and the attitude among the EV drivers in our Uber and Lyft EV Drivers Facebook group was that since we so rarely see Uber Green trips, we won’t really miss the 50 cents.
When we asked for a reaction on our Rideshare Guy Facebook page, again, drivers didn’t seem to care. “Michael A. wrote, “I opted out of Green a year ago. I kept getting ridiculously long pickups for meh or sub-meh rides,” (kudos to Michael for gifting the world with the term “sub-meh”) and “Swish” told us that “out of 6,000-plus rides, I’ve only completed one [Uber] Green ride.” My experience has been similar—of the dozen or so Green rides I’ve gotten since the program started, most were mistakenly summoned by confused passengers. And I do a lot of driving in Berkeley. Berkeley!
So why did Uber make it free for passengers with no immediate financial benefit to drivers? “Based on results in other markets,” Uber’s media rep, “We expect lower prices for Uber Green to increase rider demand and also to result in more trips for eligible drivers who chose to use a hybrid or electric vehicle. We continue to invest in resources to support drivers going electric, including an additional dollar per trip for every battery-electric vehicle driver in the US and Canada.” Further, he told me, “In markets where Uber Green and UberX are priced the same (mainly in Europe), we’ve seen significantly higher demand for Uber Green.”
He also wanted to make sure we knew that Uber is devoting $800 million in “resources” (though he was vague about what that meant) including the ZEV incentive, big fat discounts on new EVs—$6,000 on 2022 Nissan Leafs, for example—the Hertz/Tesla program and the 45-55 cent fuel surcharge that obviously benefits EV and hybrid drivers far more than the rest of the driver population.
I also asked if the ZEV incentive will go away in 2023, as the Uber website says it’s only for a limited time and the itsy-bitsy fine print at the bottom of the page says the program only runs through 2022. When I asked about it, the media department told me, “No, we don’t have plans to sunset the EV fee… But we also want to make sure we’re spending that $800 million in a way that is most beneficial to drivers so we’ll continue to listen to drivers about what’s most impactful…”
Some of us might start squirming as we recall that Uber doesn’t always make decisions that benefit drivers; we’ve written at great length about programs and changes that are unpopular with drivers. But in this case, he may be right—that $4,000 a year eases the burden of high used and new EV prices, plus the gas surcharge is pure gravy for EV drivers. Uber Green 50 cents, we hardly knew ya, but probably won’t miss you much. God speed.
-Additional reporting from Senior RSG Contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin
Uber Green Expansion
North American Expansion with Uber Green
In Uber’s initial announcement, Uber laid out four key actions to achieving a ‘fully zero-emission platform by 2040’:
- Expanding Uber Green to make it easier for riders to choose to travel in hybrids or EVs.
- Committing $800 million in resources to help hundreds of thousands of drivers transition to EVs by 2025.
- Investing in our multimodal network to promote sustainable alternatives to personal cars.
- Being transparent and accountable to the public along the way.
In this latest announcement, Uber confirms they are expanding Uber Green to 1400+ new North American cities and towns, including:
- Washington DC
- New York City
In addition, Uber Green drivers will receive an extra $.50 directly from a $1 rider surcharge for every completed Uber Green trip. Uber Green will also be incorporated into the Uber Pass membership service, meaning Pass members will receive 10% off Green trips as they do with standard rides.
Transition Drivers to EVs
One comment many drivers had when Uber first announced this commitment: how will Uber help drivers transition to electric vehicles?
In this announcement, Uber announced updates to partnerships with vehicle manufacturers, charging network providers, and EV rental and fleet companies. This includes:
- Avis EV rentals – Starting in Los Angeles, drivers now can use a zero-emissions vehicle through Avis’ new, affordable EV rental program. This program will be expanded nationwide by 2021.
- Ample Modular Battery Swapping for EVs – Starting this month, drivers in San Francisco can rent a vehicle with Ample technology and quickly swap their electric vehicle batteries in mere minutes, then return to the road fully charged.
- Expanded EV charging discounts with EVgo – Uber’s partnership with EVgo is providing exclusive savings for drivers on Uber’s platform across 800+ U.S. locations, making it more affordable to access out-of-home EV charging.
Stay tuned for what this all will look like in the coming months – we plan to have contributors and sources test this out for us!
Journey Planning and Additional News
Another thing that stood out to me was Uber’s comment about expanding ‘Journey Planning’ to an additional 10+ more cities.
Journey Planning allows passengers to plan an entire public transit trip directly in the Uber app, instead of just showing passengers only Uber options.
In the US, Journey Planning is rolling out to Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Additionally, Uber’s announcement included Uber joining in launching the Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA), a “new organization advocating for national policies that will enable 100% electric vehicle (EV) sales by 2030” as well as signing on to the Climate Pledge, a “commitment co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism to take urgent action to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early.”
Why is Uber Announcing a Commitment to Zero Emissions?
It sounds like Uber is looking to make this as smooth a transition as possible toward zero emissions. This is, in part, because of the Paris Climate Agreement and the state of California’s emissions goals.
In their first announcement, Uber attributed the coronavirus and subsequent decrease in pollution amounts as one reason they wanted to pursue the zero-emissions goal, but chances are it’s more complicated than that.
In July, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed requiring that 60 percent of miles traveled by ride-hail passengers be in electric vehicles by 2030” according to Wired. This would ‘force the companies to get about one-third of their drivers into electric vehicles by the end of 2030.’ California plans on setting these rules by January 2021, which incentivizes Uber to move quickly and get drivers used to the upcoming changes.
Overall, 60% seems more feasible at this point than 100% because it would allow some drivers to continue driving with their current vehicles, allowing them to decide to transition or not.
You may be wondering: will Uber force me to get a new car to remain a rideshare driver? If you don’t currently have a hybrid or electric vehicle, no, you will not be forced to get a new car to continue driving for Uber (or Lyft) tomorrow. However, it’s very clear that Uber and Lyft are committed to rewarding drivers that do switch to electric cars.
If you’re up for a new car in the coming years, you may want to seriously consider a hybrid or electric vehicle if you want to continue rideshare driving (even if you just do it casually). Again, it’s not a requirement from Uber or Lyft right now, but the trend is clear.
Driving an Electric Vehicle
As we mentioned in our Lyft announcement regarding the shift to electric cars, should drivers (eventually) switch entirely to electric vehicles?
Here at The Rideshare Guy, we’re fans of hybrids and electric vehicles (in fact, senior RSG contributor Gabe, Managing Editor Melissa and founder Harry all drive either electric or hybrid vehicles). In our research, we found that a 2011 Toyota Prius is your best, most economical choice as a driver (in our 2018 article ‘Is the Toyota Prius the Best Car for Uber & Lyft Drivers?’).
Since then, the EV options have gotten better and better, and in our latest article on EVs, we came down in favor of the Chevy Bolt EV as the new ‘best EV for rideshare drivers’.
We even put together a spreadsheet to determine the best EV and vehicle options for drivers.
Putting all this data together yielded some surprises. The first is that thanks to the cheap price of gas, for most places in the United States, a good used hybrid will be the most economical way to drive.
However, prices continue to decrease for electric vehicles. In our article last year, senior RSG contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin noted (updated), “I’m seeing [Chevy Bolt EVs] with fewer than 40,000 miles on Autotrader for under $17,000, but additionally GM dealers are offering as much as $8,500 in cash back on a new one! Combined with state and local incentives as well as dealer discounts (sadly, the Federal tax credit expired in March), you could steal a new Premier model for a net cost of under $25,000.”
In December, when we first shared this announcement, we had several drivers reach out to us about the feasibility of switching all drivers to EVs or hybrids. It seems like, in many states and areas of the country, EVs and hybrids are less popular for a variety of reasons.
It will be an uphill battle in many places for Uber to convince drivers to switch, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see heavy discounts (or subsidized rides) for Uber Green in places where making the switch (especially for passengers) isn’t a natural inclination.
What This Means for Drivers
It’s admirable, in my opinion. I think anything we can do to better our environment is a good move for the future of the planet and for the future of all of us who live here.
However, I don’t necessarily like being told I have to drive a certain kind of vehicle to drive on the platform. Though, to be fair, Uber already has restrictions, so it’s not all that different from their current standards.
It would be good to know if Uber would allow for hybrid vehicles to help alleviate worries drivers may have about being stranded in the middle of nowhere if their EV runs out of juice. It sounds like at least in the process of the transition, hybrids will be allowed, but there’s no indication of when those will be phased out to allow for 100% EV on the platform.
The biggest obstacle is the price of electric vehicles (though, remember you can get used EVs for a relatively good price), the availability of those vehicles and adequate charging stations. However, Uber does have a long term strategy to partner with city, state and local governments, private companies, and nonprofit organizations to make EVs more attainable, both in terms of cost and access to charging networks.
2040 is still a ways off, so it is not going to make any immediate negative impact on drivers who do not choose to transition just yet.
I’ll be curious to see how many drivers are willing to make the switch and just how easy or difficult it ends up being to do so. I know I want my next vehicle to be a hybrid or EV if for no other reason than gas being more expensive in general than electricity for fueling.
-Melissa Berry with additional reporting from Paula Gibbins