Study: EVs put to use in ride-hailing deliver more carbon benefits than in personal use

Electric cars could deliver even greater environmental benefits if they were to be used by ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft than if they were to go to private use, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.

Replacing a gasoline ride-hailing vehicle with an EV can deliver three times the carbon reduction of a personally-owned electric car, according to the study.

That’s because ride-hailing vehicles travel more miles than personal cars, according to the study. They also typically charge during the day, when a greater quality of solar energy is fed into the grid, the study noted. As previous studies have shown, electric cars get cleaner along with the grid electricity used to charge them.

Companies and regulators are already taking steps to make ride-hailing electric.

Last month, Lyft announced plans to go all-electric by 2030. That appears to get the company ahead of California, which was already on its way to mandate EVs in ride-hailing.

Lyft car picking up a rider

Lyft car picking up a rider

Based on Uber and Lyft travel and charging data in California during 2017 and 2018, the study found highlighted that many ride-hailing drivers are already going electric. While electric cars made up a “tiny fraction of traffic,” ride-hailing EVs accounted for more than 30% of energy use at public charging stations, according to the study.

Relatively long charging times did not impact the level of service. The study found “no statistical difference” between gasoline and electric cars relating to EV range or charging needs.

Because ride-hailing vehicles cover more mileage than private cars, going electric may be necessary to address what would otherwise be a major increase in carbon emissions.

A California report from earlier this year found that, in order to be called the green choice, ride-hailing needed to go all-electric. State data showed that a significant amount of mileage was wasted “deadheading”—driving to, from, or in between rides, without paying passengers onboard.

European advocacy group Transport & Environment said last year that Uber is worsening air pollution in major cities. Analysis estimated that Uber operations in London, Paris, and Brussels added as much carbon-dioxide to the atmosphere as a quarter million cars.

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