Uber plans to tackle London’s air pollution woes through EVs

 Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A few hours out walking on the promenade during peak hours in metropolitans would be enough to subjectively quantify how caustic air pollution has turned out to be in our daily lives. This is especially true of megacities like London, where over 2.5 million cars are taken out on its streets every day, turning air pollution to a Gotham-sque villain that is hard to withstand and difficult to thwart.

In its effort to drive towards a more healthier London, Uber has proposed its plans to tackle air pollution in the city by introducing ‘Clean Air Plan’ – a goal that would see Uber cars becoming all-electric by 2025. In order to reach the milestone, Uber is setting up a ‘clean air fee’ of 15 pence per mile, which would be included with every trip booked through the Uber app in London.

Of the fee collected, one penny would go towards helping drivers upgrade their combustion engine vehicle to an all-electric one and other closely associated clean air activities. Estimates from Uber show that an average trip lasts roughly 3 miles, which would give Uber an added 45p each trip.

“Every driver using the app in London will be able to get assistance to help them move into an electric car. The amount of support drivers will receive towards the cost of an electric vehicle will be based on the number of miles they have driven on the app,” said Uber in its statement. “For example, a driver using the app for an average of 40 hours per week could expect around £3,000 of support towards an EV in two years’ time and £4,500 in three years.”

Through this initiative, Uber expects to raise around $260 million which would help in transitioning drivers to all-electric cars by 2025, with the company planning to field the first 20,000 electric Uber cars on the road by 2021. The company at present has 45,000 licensed drivers on its rolls in London, with over 3.5 million people booking cabs through their platform.

In a way, 2021 is an important year for London’s traffic scene as well, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan flagged off a new Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which would come into effect by the year above said. Mayor Khan has talked tough against the issue of traffic congestion in the city, looking at ways to stifle the movement of older cars that pollute a lot more than the newer variants. The new ULEZ ruling would mean that drivers of older cars would have to shell out $16 every day if they are looking to drive within the ULEZ boundaries.

The existing ULEZ area covers just central London at the moment, but the new regulations would expand the boundaries by nearly 18 times the current size. The new ULEZ covers London’s North and South Circular, with charges beginning as early as April 2019, operating on top of the congestion charge. Then again, the drivers would not have to actually pay the charge till April 2022.

“The Mayor of London has set out a bold vision to tackle air pollution in the capital and we’re determined to do everything we can to back it,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. “Our £200 million Clean Air Plan is a long-term investment in the future of London aimed at going all electric in the capital in 2025. Over time, it’s our goal to help people replace their car with their phone by offering a range of mobility options – whether cars, bikes, scooters or public transport – all in the Uber app.”

To expedite the electric vehicle adoption amongst its drivers, Uber is also working with third-party suppliers to install affordable charging points at the homes of drivers, and is also placing rapid charging stations in central London to help existing Uber drivers that already run electric.

“Another element of our Clean Air Plan is a diesel scrappage scheme aimed at removing 1,000 of the most polluting cars from London’s roads which will also launch early next year. The first 1,000 people in London to scrap a pre-Euro 4 diesel vehicle and provide an official scrappage certificate will receive up to £1,500 of credit to spend on Uber or uberPOOL rides,” said the official statement. This is in line with the ambitious plan of the U.K. government in banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars altogether by 2040, a deadline that lawmakers are trying hard to move to 2032.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.