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Lyft Inc. reportedly announced it will launch an electric vehicle rental pilot program for ride-hail drivers in a part of the San Francisco Bay Area in partnership with a local utility. The EV rental program in San Mateo County is scheduled to begin this fall. The ridehail company and Peninsula Clean Energy said in a statement the program is initially aiming to provide roughly 100 EVs for use on the Lyft platform.
Peninsula Clean Energy, San Mateo County’s official energy provider, will reportedly provide $500,000 in incentives to ridehail drivers to ensure the cost of renting an EV is comparable to a gas-powered car. Lyft, for its part, said exact rental prices and models were still being determined. Lyft’s Flexdrive unit, which works with local car dealerships to rent out vehicles on a weekly or long-term basis, will operate the program. Lyft already offers EV rentals of Kia Niro and Chevy Bolt EVs in Seattle, Atlanta, and Denver.
Lyft and its rival Uber Technologies Inc have both promised to convert their U.S. fleets entirely to EVs by 2030. The state of California actually required the ride-sharing companies to transition from gasoline to electric vehicles in their networks by the end of this decade. And though the companies had already promised to do this, they still said mandating such costly measures are “unrealistic” without more public subsidies for EV implementation. Therefore, Uber and Lyft are pushing back on the CARB effort to force the transition, arguing taxpayers should shoulder much of the burden.
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.
Moreover, according to Uber and Lyft, they can’t afford the EV transition. In a Dec. 2020 letter to CARB, Uber said that without “sufficient” subsidies the rule would unduly burden the companies, along with their drivers and consumers. “No one government nor single company … can bear the full cost of a rapid transition alone,” Uber said in a statement to Reuters. Lyft said in a statement that taxpayers should finance the transition because current government subsidies are only sufficient to make EVs affordable for “typically high-income white homeowners,” while most California Lyft drivers are lower-income minorities.
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.