Report steers ride-hailing services toward greater EV use

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Electric vehicles can effectively replace gasoline-powered cars for ride-hailing trips, but steps must be taken to improve their financial competitiveness and charging infrastructure, according to a report released today by the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute.

Using data collected by General Motors Co. on 101 million miles traveled by EV drivers for ride-hailing companies such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., the report assessed how Uber, Lyft and other ride services can transition to EVs to fight climate change.

“Urgent and collaborative action from key stakeholders is needed to drive to a climate-aligned goal of deploying over 50 million electric vehicles in the next 10 years,” Britta Gross, the institute’s managing director, said in a statement. “Ride-hailing can be that sector that drives widespread EV awareness and moves the market toward an electrification tipping point that is irreversible.”

GM compiled a wealth of data on EVs and internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles used by Maven Gig, a car-sharing service that rented vehicles to Uber and Lyft drivers before shutting down last spring.

In one instance, the automaker studied the performance of more than 6,000 Maven Gig EVs used by ride-hailing drivers in the Los Angeles area. It found that the EVs were “technologically capable” of replacing their fossil fuel-powered counterparts.

While the ICE vehicles traveled an average of 161.9 miles per day, the EVs logged an average of 152.7 miles — a “relatively insignificant difference,” according to the report. And while the ICE vehicles had an average of six hours and 37 minutes of downtime without passengers, the EVs had seven hours — a small gap due to time spent recharging.

In another instance, GM examined the cost-competitiveness of EVs used in 15 metropolitan areas, including New York City, LA, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago.

It found that the EVs had a higher cost of ownership in all 15 areas. The smallest difference was in LA, where EV drivers paid an additional penny per mile, while the biggest difference was in Phoenix, where high charging costs and low gas prices forced EV drivers to pay an additional 8 cents per mile.

To help EVs reach cost parity, the report recommends that municipalities and utilities offer a host of financial incentives for consumers, such as upfront purchase rebates. Other recommendations include expanding access to Level 2 charging stations and giving EVs preferential access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

“Access to EVs and associated charging infrastructure in all communities and business sectors is essential for unlocking the societal benefits of an all-electric, zero-emission future,” Alex Keros, lead architect for EV charging at GM, said in a statement.

In November, GM CEO Mary Barra announced the company would spend an additional $7 billion on electric and autonomous models by 2025 (E&E News PM, Nov. 19, 2020).