On the surface, rideshare provides a great alternative to driving a personal vehicle for those who want to avoid driving in traffic and struggle to find parking. Because rideshare in theory provides an alternative to car ownership, it’s easy to assume that a shared vehicle is better for the environment. Despite working in the automotive space and caring deeply about CO2 emissions, I personally never explored the environmental impacts of Uber and Lyft’s operations.
So I was surprised to learn that one mile driven in rideshare pollutes 50% more than driving a personal vehicle the same distance. Even in pooled rides that can still happen. Rideshare vehicles are so much more damaging for the environment because the driver has to travel extra miles in between rides. Sometimes the distance traveled to get to a rider is double or triple the ride length - this inefficiency compounds and has dire consequences.
I wanted to see these inefficiencies first hand, so I signed up to drive for Lyft and worked two 7 hour shifts. What I experienced was staggering - on one shift, I only had a passenger in my car for 58% of the total miles I drove that day. I drove countless miles in between rides and while waiting for new ride requests. That is a lot of wasted miles for a car to be driving aimlessly around a city!
One ride stands out. I drove 14 miles to pick up a passenger who only needed to go 4 miles. That passenger, without their knowledge or consent, polluted over three times more per mile than if they had just driven themselves the same distance. I knew this experience could not be unique. I turned to online groups with other rideshare drivers. There I found countless posts, memes, and images portraying the absurd distances drivers traveled to give their passengers a comparably short ride. Turns out driving 14 miles for a 4-mile ride is nothing out of the ordinary. For drivers, these preventable inefficiencies mean spending a lot of money on gas for very little pay. For our planet, these inefficiencies accumulate into a huge amount of pollution across the industry.
Electric vehicles (EV) solve the primary problems faced by the rideshare industry today: driver compensation and pollution. EVs have some of the lowest cost to operate per mile compared to internal combustion vehicles (ICE) and hybrid vehicles. For drivers, that means less money spent on gas and lower maintenance costs. It should come as no surprise that vehicles used in ridesharing have some of the highest utilization rates of all cars. A typical full-time driver can drive upwards of 50,000 miles per year. That is nearly four times more than the average driver which travels 13,500 miles per year. When thinking about electrifying the global fleet, we should prioritize the vehicles with the highest utilization rate. Displacing one ICE rideshare vehicle with an EV is the equivalent of removing four combustion vehicles from the road.
Lyft and Uber announced they plan to have a fully electrified fleet in the US by 2030 and 2040 respectively, but their announcements come without the requisite incentives for their drivers to make the switch. Uber publicized an investment of $800M for this initiative but assuming there are 1 million Uber drivers in the US, an $800M investment would mean an incentive of $800 per driver. Considering the average transaction price of a new electric vehicle is $19,000 higher than a new ICE vehicle and $34,600 higher than a used ICE vehicle, it's highly unlikely that $800 will facilitate any real change.
Many rideshare drivers lack access to financing options and often have poor credit scores. Those factors usually prevent the purchase of a vehicle with a high price point. And rideshare drivers travel too many miles to consider a lease. So what options are drivers left with?
We need to lower the barriers to entry for rideshare drivers to get behind the wheel of an EV. At Taxie we aim to democratize access to electric vehicles so that we can accelerate the change to an all-electric ridesharing fleet. We do this by providing a vehicle subscription service for rideshare drivers that enables them to have a weekly rental for a premium EV - with insurance, charging, and maintenance included. Our cars qualify drivers to accept UberBlack and Lyft Lux rides so they can make more per ride, while drastically reducing their operating costs.
If you believe in our mission of making rideshare a more sustainable business for both drivers and our planet then I have a few asks for you:
- The next rideshare you take, tip your driver. It goes a long way towards helping drivers make a living wage.
- Choose electric rides in your city when they are available through Uber Green, or Lyft Green
- Minimize rides that could easily be substituted by walking, biking, or public transportation. Drivers can’t see where you are going until they pick you up. As much as you can, avoid making them drive long distances for a short ride.
- If you know any rideshare drivers have them visit taxie.us
- Follow us on LinkedIn to follow our progress
We are Taxie: a green new way to drive.