Unless you happen to live in a very rural area, the chances are you’ve seen plenty of cars driving around your local area proudly wearing the small but unmistakable sticker depicting a stylized upper case U in white on a black background.
It is of course the mark of Uber, the multi-billion dollar peer-to-peer lift sharing service that turns everyday car owners into ad-hoc minicab drivers, exchanging their time behind the wheel driving strangers for cold, hard cash. And while Uber isn’t everyone’s favourite way to get a taxi (it has upset plenty of operators and owners in the traditional minicab and private hire world) there are few major cities around the world today where you can’t open up your smartphone and hail an Uber.
Because of the way Uber operates — paying drivers a nominal fee for every mile they drive — it’s been known for some time that Uber drivers with an electric car like the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S or BMW i3 stand to make far more money than those driving a comparable internal combustion engined car, simply because the cost of driving an electric car per mile is far lower than it is for a gasoline or diesel-powered car.
Add in the fact that many charging networks allow electric car owners unlimited recharging for a flat monthly fee (or in the case of the Tesla Model S, free lifetime Supercharger use), and it’s easy to see why plug-in cars have become so popular among Uber drivers. And so far, unless you happen to request a specific driver you know has an electric car, it’s been a bit hit and miss as to if you’ll find yourself in an Uber powered by fossils or sunlight.
But now BMW, Nissan and Uber have partnered up on a special trial Uber service that lets customers in Johannesburg, South Africa specifically pick a zero emission electric car for their next Uber.
Enter UberGREEN, a pilot project due to run for just six weeks in the busy city which could encourage both electric car adoption among Uber drivers and among everyday South Africans too.
As Uber detailed on its blog last week UberGreen will run from May 9 through June 3, and will give Uber users an option to pick a zero-emission Nissan LEAF or BMW i3 Uber straight from the usual Uber smartphone app. Available between 7am and 7pm every day, Uber says its UberGREEN drivers will be priced at Uber X rates — the cheapest Uber ratre offered by the company. While this should mean that plenty of South Africans take part by hailing an UberGREEN, it could also mean that the service — much like other Uber promotions we’ve seen in the past — will be in high demand.
As part of the pilot project, Uber says it will be carefully watching the number of miles driven by its UberGREEN fleet, which it will then use to calculate just how much carbon dioxide it could help prevent from entering the atmosphere if more drivers dumped the pump for good.
“This is a step towards a more sustainable mobility that will help us answer a simple albeit important question: what is the impact of carbon-free, on-dmand travel in reducing CO2 emissions in South Africa?” the blog post asks. “We count on you for this ride towards a greener mobility in Johannesburg.”
Here at Transport Evolved, we know plenty of readers supplement their day jobs with a little Uber driving in the evenings and at weekends. From what we’ve heard, those who know where all the local quick charging stations are or who plan ahead can even make a reasonable amount of money driving their electric car for the lift sharing service, despite the recent controversial drop in per-mile pay for Uber partners (the name Uber gives its drivers).
But while we love the idea of a special electric-car-only white label version of Uber for the environmentally conscious, Uber is known more for its weird-ass publicity stunts than it is for its intent to make the world a cleaner, greener place to live. Consequently, we don’t think UberGREEN will be in it for the long run.
We hope to be proven wrong.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.