Uber wants to make it ‘absolutely effortless’ for drivers and passengers to go green

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Aaron Chown/Getty Images
  • Uber unveiled a series of new sustainability measures on Thursday.
  • They include giving drivers in-app guidance on when and where they can charge their EVs.
  • All restaurants on Uber Eats will also use sustainable packaging by 2030, the company said.

Uber unveiled a series of new sustainability measures at a product launch in London on Thursday.

The company said it will start giving drivers guidance on when and where they should charge their electric vehicles

, offering passengers discounts for EV journeys to and from airports, and getting restaurants on Uber Eats to switch to sustainable packaging.

Uber wants to make it “absolutely effortless” for drivers and riders to go green, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, adding that “everyone should be able to live a low emissions lifestyle. Driving emissions to zero I believe is the defining challenge of our generation.”

EV ‘charging anxiety’ 

Key to Uber’s sustainability push is whether it can persuade more drivers to buy or rent EVs.

One of the biggest problems Uber has with conversion to EVs is that drivers are apprehensive about both the high initial costs and the so-called “charging anxiety,” Sachin Kansal, Uber’s VP of product management, said.

Drivers’ concerns include having to find chargers

and wait in line to use them, canceling or aborting a ride partway through because of a lack of charge, and missing out on business while their vehicle is plugged in.

To combat this, Uber introduced an EV hub on its driver app with information about charging, models, and prices, while it also started hosting events where drivers could test EVs, Kansel said.

The app also allows drivers to search for nearby EV chargers and get information about prices, wattage, and availability.

Drivers will be able to use the app to find nearby EV chargers and fuel-efficient routes.
Drivers will be able to use the app to find nearby EV chargers. Uber

New updates will also allow drivers to connect their Uber app to their car, giving them real-time recommendations for when to plan their charging break based on their charge, expected ride demand, and charging prices, which fluctuate throughout the day, Kansal said.

Uber will also roll out so-called “battery-aware matching,” which only shows drivers trips they can do with their current level of charge — meaning they don’t have to cancel rides to plug their vehicles in, Kansal added.

Uber is also offering financial motives to drivers if they switch to EVs, Kansal went on. In the US and Canada, a limited-time deal offers drivers an extra $1 per journey

completed in an EV.

Rider-emissions statistics, carsharing, and sustainable-food packaging

It’s not just drivers that Uber is trying to incentivize to go green. It’s encouraging passengers to pick EVs, too.

Divya Dalapathi, Uber’s director of project management for maps and autonomous, said that Uber was introducing a “green curb” feature at airports, including Portland International and Phoenix Sky Harbor. This would let riders who opt for EVs get lower fairs and be picked up and dropped off at dedicated pickup zones.

Drivers, meanwhile, will have access to discounted or even free charging in the waiting lot. Dalapathi said that trips to and from airports accounted for 15% of Uber’s business and were generally longer.

Customers will also be able to view statistics on the app that show the emissions they avoided by riding in an EV.

Customers will able to search for restaurants on Uber Eats that use sustainable packaging and see the emissions they have avoided by opting for EVs on Uber. The company is expanding its micromobility schemes, too.
Uber Eats customers will able to search for restaurants that use sustainable packaging. Uber

Dalapathi added that Uber introduced a new algorithm last year that found more eco-friendly routes for drivers by avoiding hills and traffic lights whenever possible — without charging riders more or making the journey longer.

Uber also announced expansions to UberX Share, Uber Green, and its Tembici bike-rental program. The company is also starting its first car-sharing service, Uber Carshare, in Boston and Toronto, after acquiring Australian app Car Next Door last year.

Khosrowshahi also unveiled two new sustainability goals for Uber Eats: to have all couriers on the platform drive zero-emission vehicles by 2040 and to have all restaurants use sustainable packaging by 2030. Customers will be able to filter for restaurants that use sustainable packaging on the app.

Khosrowshahi added that Uber chose London for the launch because it’s Uber’s EV hub. Of the more than 60,000 Uber drivers using EVs across Europe and North America, over 10,000 were in London, he said.

Thursday’s announcements build on Uber’s commitment to become fully electric in London by 2025, in Europe and North America by 2030, and globally by 2040.