Courtesy of Bee The Change

Uber Plans To Add 10,000 Electric Cars To Its Fleet In Australia

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Uber Australia is following through on its commitment to be totally carbon emissions-free by 2040. It announced this week it is importing 10,000 electric cars from BYD and will make them available to its Uber and Uber Eats drivers on attractive terms. The company says its research indicates electric cars are now less expensive to own and operate than conventional gasoline powered cars.

In a press release, Dom Taylor, the general manager of Uber Australia and New Zealand, said, “In 2020, we announced our ambition to eliminate tailpipe emissions on the Uber platform by 2040, and in 2021, we took a conscious decision as a business to invest ahead of the curve here in Australia. Today we’re thrilled to see our EV flywheel propelling us forward — with our first fully electric product and a major partnership to make even more EVs available to Uber drivers and delivery people.”

In the third quarter of 2023 alone, more than 1.2 million Uber rides were taken in an EV in Australia — an average of 13,000 zero emissions trips per day. In the same period, there were more than 2,400 electric cars operating on the Uber platform — a significant increase from fewer than 100 before Uber started investing in them in 2021.

Uber To Import BYD Electric Cars

The new electric cars will be supplied by BYD via its Australian importer EVDirect. Uber drivers can now purchase a BYD Atto 3, which retails for AUS $48,000, from EVDirect for as little as $269 a week through the company’s EV Flex program. At that rate, the cars will be fully paid for in four years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Some of those cars will be sold on to private buyers within a year, which will give a boost to the availability of used electric cars in Australia’s used car market.

“Two-thirds of drivers have told us they want to make the switch to electric cars, but the number one barrier to doing so is the upfront cost of the car,” said Taylor. “Through our new partnership with EVDirect, we are addressing that challenge head on. Our goal is to provide drivers and delivery people a range of flexible options that make it easier than ever to get behind the wheel of an EV.”

Specifically, in previous surveys of its drivers, 67% said they would like to switch to electric cars, but only 20% felt they could actually afford to do so. Taylor said, “Our analysis in 2021 showed that was because of the high upfront cost of the car in Australia, and that a hybrid car was a lower cost option and that was why we saw more hybrids in Australia. We’ve run that same analysis in 2023 using the Atto 3, and it’s at a tipping point where today an EV is the lowest cost option.”

Flexible Finance Options

EVDirect CEO Luke Todd told SMH his company is banking on its deal with Uber to drive sustained growth in the sales of new and used electric cars. “We believe that 10,000 Uber vehicles switching across to electric is just the beginning. Once people understand how much money can be saved and how easy it is to transition, we think this will be a tidal-wave movement.”

One of the financing options EVDirect offers lets drivers rent a vehicle for one year and then return it to EVDirect, who will take it back and sell it second-hand. “We’re going to see a huge number of vehicles repurposed and come onto the second-hand [market],” Todd said.

“We’re excited to support drivers and delivery people with a cost-effective way to access EVs. We’ve created flexible financing options as well as easy charging options, and know drivers will reap the benefits of the cheaper operational costs of an EV. What excites me the most is the amount of money drivers and delivery people can save by switching to electric, given the number of kilometers that they drive each day. With the record high fuel prices at the moment, there’s never been a better time to announce such an important opportunity to enable drivers and delivery people on Uber to transition to electric so seamlessly,” he added.

Tracking Emissions

The electric cars will be made available first to Uber for Business customers in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Adelaide as part of a new Uber Comfort program, and driven by the company’s most highly rated operators. The service will allow organizations using Uber for Business a better way to track emissions reductions via the Uber platform’s sustainability insights dashboard.

That portal gives companies the ability to view carbon emissions data, and view and report on how frequently employees use low emission trips. That data can help corporations reduce ground transportation emissions. Uber for Business customers can also access metrics such as total carbon emissions and the percentage of corporate travel trips taken on eco-friendly alternatives, including Comfort Electric and Uber Green.

“Australian businesses are increasingly examining ways to incorporate more sustainable solutions across the corporate travel mix,” said Sarah Forsterling, the acting head of Uber for Business in Australia and New Zealand. “Tens of thousands of clients globally have used Uber for Business’ Sustainability Dashboard since its launch in 2022, a platform we provide to customers that helps them easily report on the sustainability impact of corporate travel. We’re excited about how Comfort Electric will help Australian businesses reduce carbon emissions, as well as provide their employees the option to embrace a greener way to travel in style.”

Behyad Jafari, CEO of Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council, said, “We welcome innovative business partnerships that put meaningful investment behind Australia’s transition to electric vehicles. The financing available via EVDirect should encourage people who drive for Uber or deliver for Uber Eats to shift to EVs, which we know would have an outsized impact on reducing carbon emissions.”

The Takeaway

One may quibble that Uber’s goal to become an emissions-free company by 2040 is not aggressive enough. The climate emergency is here now, not 17 years from now. However, let’s give credit where credit is due. Unlike oil majors such as Exxon and Chevron, which are ignoring the problem and planning to dramatically increase the supply of oil and gas, Uber is taking action. Kudos to them.

The way things usually work is, new technologies take a while to find mass acceptance, but then zoom to full implementation faster than anyone expected. By bringing a significant number of electric cars to Australia, Uber is moving the demand curve upward. All those drivers will share their experience with other drivers and all those passengers will share their experience with other customers, and all those corporations will share their experience with other business leaders.

In all likelihood, Uber will reach its zero emissions goal a decade sooner than planned, as electric cars become the vehicle of choice for mainstream drivers.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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