The ridesharing industry has a key role to play in lowering emissions across Canada’s transportation sector, but realizing its full potential requires targeted policies and government support for high-mileage drivers
All levels of government are ramping up their efforts to support Canadians to make the switch from gas cars to electric vehicles through financial incentives, more charging stations and changes to our building codes and standards. This is a good thing and will have a real impact on the number of Canadians making the switch and on our ambitious climate change goals as a country. One of the areas of investment where governments can move the needle is by supporting high-mileage car drivers to make a fair and equitable transition to EVs.
We know that shared, zero-emission, multimodal, and inclusive mobility can deliver outsized environmental benefits and help cities, provinces, and, indeed, Canada meet critical economic, climate, and electrification goals. When high-utilization rideshare drivers are helped to make a fair transition to EVs, communities can realize three to four times greater GHG emissions reductions compared to when average car owners switch.
And the interest is there. In a recent survey of drivers on the Uber platform in Canada, 71 per cent of drivers indicated they are interested in switching to an EV. This result is comparable to a poll of Canadians across the country which also found that 71 per cent of Canadians would consider an EV for their next purchase. But we also know that there are a number of barriers to helping rideshare drivers make that transition to an EV.
Partnerships across the ecosystem
Progress towards a fully electric platform is best achieved in cities where we partner across the ecosystem — and there are some successful examples already happening to be supported and, possibly, replicated.
Plug’n Drive is providing informative webinars as well as hosting test drive opportunities for drivers on the Uber platform to learn about the total cost of owning an EV and the benefits. Shell Recharge is bringing more charging stations to B.C., and Wallbox and FLO are offering discounts on home charging solutions. General Motors gave discounts to rideshare drivers on the Chevrolet Bolt EV. And drivers of fully electric vehicles are eligible for Uber’s Zero Emissions incentive, which lets them earn an extra $1 on every trip with Uber up to $4,000 until December 31, 2022.
But going all-electric is a challenge that’s bigger than these companies. We need policies in place that make EVs more affordable and charging more accessible.
A recent World Resources Institute research paper detailed how governments, ridesharing companies, utilities, and charging station operators can play a role in making EVs more cost competitive and expanding access to affordable, convenient charging, especially for low-income communities. The paper included ideas such as reducing high up-front costs and increasing access to affordable financing, with a focus on equity and high-mileage use cases; making EV charging more affordable and convenient through overnight solutions in underserved areas and urban fast-charging; and educating drivers on EV ownership and benefits.
Options for our governments
Last month, the federal government released its 2030 Emissions Reductions Plan which includes $9.1 billion in new investments to cut pollution and grow the economy. We are interested to see how this will support ridesharing drivers. Here are a few things our governments can do right now with that money:
- Create an additional income-tested incentive for EV purchases
- Extend EV incentives to used EV purchases (a majority of drivers on the Uber platform bought their vehicles secondhand)
- Install charging infrastructure in multi-unit residential buildings to increase access for residents or renters
- Offer low interest loans to first time EV buyers
- Ensure building codes are changes so any new multi-unit buildings include the ‘rough in’ for EV infrastructure.
Progress in Europe shows it can be done. Rideshare drivers are going electric in Europe nearly five times faster than average European private car owners. The number in London is eight times faster. In the leading cities, policies are in place that make the total cost of ownership of an EV is significantly lower than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.
Going green is truly a team sport. Progress towards a fully electric platform will only be achieved where we band together across the ecosystem — government, industry, ridesharing companies and NGOs. Teaming up will continue to be vital in delivering our common goal for a cleaner, greener future.
Cara Clairman is President and CEO of Plug’n Drive, a non-profit that is accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) to maximize their environmental and economic benefits.
Laura Miller is the head of public policy and communications at Uber Canada.