Uber wants its drivers to plug in.
Uber wants its drivers to plug in.

Image: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

Uber wants to encourage its drivers to start using electric vehicles (EVs) rather than the gas-powered ones they typically use.

The company launched a pilot program on Tuesday in eight North American cities (Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle) that connect its drivers to national and local EV organizations. 

The program, called the EV Champions Initiative, will include a bunch of new features in the app for Uber drivers. For example, a new feature in the driver app will help combat range anxiety, which can often discourage drivers from going electric for fear that they might run out of fuel on an unexpectedly long trip.

Uber typically alerts drivers before they accept any longer, 45-minute rides. Now, for EV drivers, they’ll be notified if a ride is expected to be longer than 30 minutes.

Also part of the new electric initiative, Uber has a new video for EV drivers that explains the basics about driving electric in the U.S. and Canada. Info from partners like Plug In America will help drivers understand the benefits of electric. Education is also about knowing and learning what monetary incentives federal, state, and local policies offer to zero-emission drivers. 

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In Sacramento, Uber is working with the local public utility district to give $1.50 back for each trip in an all-electric vehicle. Other incentives include access to free fast charging networks. In other cities Uber will give $1 per electric-powered trip to drivers.

Uber made its electric vehicle announcement Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, at the EV Roadmap Conference. In Portland last year Uber offered an EV leasing program for drivers there. Previously Uber has committed to turning its driver network electric. In London it set a 2025 goal for all its cars to be battery-powered.

Earlier this year, ride-hailing app competitor Lyft also laid out its electric and environmental goals, which include building out all-electric self-driving cars using renewable energy and offering 1 billion carbon-neutral rides by 2025. It is part of the carbon offsetting program and already has 100,000 EVs on its app. Uber tracked about 4 million EV rides in the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

Charging networks like EVgo already encourage ride-share and delivery drivers to opt for an electric vehicle while on the job, such as through a leasing program from General Motors’ Maven app. Maven VP Julia Steyn posted Tuesday about how the gig economy and EVs work together. “EV shared miles are the best miles,” she wrote.

More companies like Uber are hoping your next ride will be electric.

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