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California’s clean-air regulator reportedly unanimously approved new rules requiring ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to transition from gasoline to electric vehicles (EVs) in their networks by the end of this decade. The ride-share companies will have to begin the electrification of their fleets in 2023.
The move by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is part of California’s effort to phase out gas-powered vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral by 2045. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state of nearly 40 million residents be zero-emission by 2035. Similarly, the Clean Miles Standard mandating that EVs account for 90% of ride-hailing vehicle miles traveled in California by 2030.
“The transportation sector is responsible for nearly half of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, the vast majority of which come from light-duty vehicles,” CARB Chair Liane M. Randolph reportedly said in a statement. “This action will help provide certainty to the state’s climate efforts and improve air quality in our most disadvantaged communities.”
A new study found that the cars driven by contractors from the ridesharing companies actually increase congestion and reduce transit use. Specifically, the researchers noted that congestion increased by almost 1%, while the duration of congestion rose by 4.5%. They also found an 8.9% drop in public transport ridership and an insignificant decrease of only 1% in private vehicle ownership. Ride-hailing trips currently make up just 1.2% of all passenger vehicle miles traveled in California. But according to CARB, drivers for ride-hailing firms produce more pollution per passenger-mile traveled because they spend more than a third of their time cruising without riders and only rarely carry multiple riders.
Both Lyft and Uber reportedly welcomed the new rules. “Lyft supports CARB’s EV and [greenhouse gas] targets for TNCs [ridesharing companies] and advocated for aggressive targets throughout the process,” Paul Augustine, senior manager of Sustainability at Lyft, told Changing America in a statement.
Uber applauded the rule as “one of the first emissions policies in the world based on real-world vehicle use.” “With ridehail trips accounting for just 1% of California’s light-duty vehicle emissions, we hope [Clean Miles Standard] becomes a useful template for examining the other 99%,” Adam Gromis, global head of sustainability for Uber, said in a statement.
Both Uber and Lyft had already committed to converting their fleets entirely to EVs by 2030. But recently, the ridehail corporations asked California for public subsidies for EV implementation, saying that mandating such costly measures are “unrealistic.” According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that projected the transition’s total cost at Reuters’ request, the total cost of meeting California’s 2030 standard could reach $1.73 billion — even when government subsidies and projected declines in electric-vehicle costs are considered.
California State Senator Nancy Skinner — who introduced the 2018 law on which the CARB regulations are based— said the companies should pay most of the cost for fleet conversion because their businesses have increased carbon emissions. “It’s because of them that these vehicles are driving additional miles and making additional trips,” she reportedly said.
Uber and Lyft’s business models pose the biggest obstacles to converting their fleets to EVs. Having won the battle against California over worker classification, their drivers own their cars and work as much or as little as they please. And even those working full-time don’t make enough to justify the higher upfront costs of EVs — even with prices soaring as the demand for rides returns.