T&E campaign secures ‘electric’ commitment from Uber

The ride-hailing service Uber has agreed to make half its rides electric within five years across seven major European cities. The decision is a victory for the #TrueCostOfUber campaign launched last autumn by eight NGOs. T&E says the next move must be for other cities in Europe to respond by establishing zero-emissions zones along with cycling and walking facilities.

Uber report cover image - Rue de la Loi Brussels traffic

In November 2019, a broad coalition of environmental NGOs in the US, Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Belgium launched the #TrueCostOfUber campaign. It highlighted the impact of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, including growing emissions and falling use of public transport. The campaign called on Uber, the world’s largest online mobility platform, to play its part by getting rid of polluting vehicles and electrifying its fleet.

Ten months later, the campaign has borne fruit: Uber says it will provide 50% of its rides in emissions-free vehicles across seven European capitals by 2025, and is committing to have a 100% electric fleet within five years of the cost of running an electric car reaching parity with a petrol or diesel vehicle. The seven cities are Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid and Paris.

‘Shared electric mobility is key to solving the problems of pollution and congestion, and the right place to start is with high-mileage drivers who’ll benefit most from cheaper-to-run, clean electric vehicles,’ T&E’s executive director William Todts said. ‘Uber's commitment to rapidly electrify its fleet is good news, but now the European Commission must play its part. Tighter vehicle CO2 standards will help increase the offer of attractive and affordable electric cars, making it easy for Europeans to go emissions-free. If we want clean air, a healthy planet and lower fuel bills, this is exactly what we need to do.’

T&E has calculated that switching 50% of Uber’s journeys across the seven European cities by 2025 to electric rides will mean savings of approximately 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This is equivalent to removing the CO2 emissions of 275,000 privately-owned cars from the roads. And those figures are based on today’s electricity generation – more electricity is generated from renewable sources every year, which means e-vehicles are constantly getting cleaner.

Electric cars are set to reach price parity with petrol and diesel from 2022, but they are already cheaper to run. Professional drivers like taxis and Ubers can reap the early benefits of ultra-low fuel bills because they drive on average four-to-five times more than private motorists.

Cleaning up Uber’s vehicles is only part of the true cost of the company’s activities, and T&E has said city mayors and other urban authorities have a role to play. ‘It’s time for Europe’s cities to show leadership,’ William Todts said. ‘We need all big cities in Europe to introduce zero-emission zones, as well as facilities to make walking and cycling easier such as new pop-up bike lanes and cycle-only corridors. Also key to cleaning up the urban environment is the provision of easy access to charging at home, at work and wherever people park.’

T&E and its partners have said they will closely monitor Uber’s decarbonisation efforts to make sure it delivers on its promises.