Calif. will make Uber and Lyft nearly all-EV by 2030

Source: By David Ferris, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2020

California regulators have strengthened their plans to limit climate pollution by companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to such an extent that they will be required to run nearly all-electric fleets by 2030.

The plan doesn’t require every driver to be behind the wheel of an electric vehicle, but it makes up for their tailpipe waste by nudging the ride-hailing giants to take other measures like investing in bike lanes or meshing with bus networks.

The proposal by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the first in the world to govern the carbon emissions of ride hailing.

“There’s a lot of eyes on this regulatory process, and we hope this is a good model that others can use going forward,” said Elizabeth Irvin, a transportation analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

CARB’s Clean Miles Standard, as it is called, took shape in a plan released Thursday. The plan has grown more stringent since earlier this year, a reflection of how swiftly the tide of U.S. vehicle electrification is shifting.

At the outset, CARB had suggested a far weaker 2030 goal. Since then, both Uber and Lyft have committed to electrifying their fleets by 2030, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has asked CARB to draft rules to require EV-only car sales by 2035.

The California Legislature passed a bill in 2018 to require the ride-hailing standard. CARB planned to have the rule finalized by January of next year, but it has delayed that goal until May. The proposal is up for public comment until Dec. 11.

The plan has political overtones because the chair of CARB, Mary Nichols, is viewed as a strong potential pick by President-elect Joe Biden to head EPA.

The plan is uncharted territory for vehicle regulation. Unlike other air rules covering cars and trucks, it doesn’t require a certain portion of vehicles to be zero-emissions.

Instead, it regulates the emissions of miles driven — a crucial distinction that gets at the peculiar challenges of reining in the pollution of ride hailing.

Research has revealed that the habits of ride-hailing drivers contribute to both high carbon emissions and congestion. They are often deadheading — a term that means they are in perpetual motion even when not carrying passengers, making them agents of both gridlock and climate change (Energywire, March 18).

Under the rule, the companies would have to submit to CARB their carbon-reduction plans by the start of 2022. The rules start to take effect in 2023. The complex of rules requires Uber, Lyft and other such firms to follow two regulations: one to electrify their fleets and another to dial back their carbon emissions.

The two goals have a gap between them, with the carbon-emissions goals being more stringent. The purpose of that, Irvin explained, is to avoid requiring every Uber or Lyft driver to buy an EV. Many might not have the means to do so.

For electrification, ride-hailing companies would need to have 2% of their miles traveled be electric in 2023, rising incrementally to 90% in 2030.

The greenhouse gas goal is based on the number of grams of CO2 per mile traveled. It starts with a relatively lax number and drops to zero by 2030.

In the gap between the two regulations is where a system of credits kicks in.

The companies can get credits by investing in existing bike lane or sidewalk-building projects; by proving that they are completing a significant number of rides in tandem with public transit, like buses or trains; or by subsidizing their drivers’ purchase of EVs or the charging of those vehicles.

How exactly these credits will be enacted has not yet been written.

“There’s some good things about the higher GHG target,” Irvin said. “That gives the companies some flexibility to decide how they want to meet that target other than electrifying, which can have other positive impacts on the other aspects of ride hailing, like congestion.”