Uber pledges to make all UberX cars in London electric or hybrid by 2019

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Uber has announced a new “clean air plan” that will commit all of its London UberX drivers to electric or hybrid cars by 2019, and fully electric by 2025.

The company claimed that more than half of all UberX miles in the U.K. capital are already made in a hybrid or electric vehicle, and over the next couple of years the company said that it will be making a number of financial commitments to ensure it meets its green pledge.

The ride-hailing giant has dabbled with electric vehicle programs elsewhere in the world. Back in 2015, Uber introduced hybrid electric vehicles to its service in China via a new “UberGreen” branded scheme, and later formally launched the service via a number of trials in the likes of Portugal and South Africa using 100% electric vehicles. And last August, Uber and Nissan partnered for a pilot project that kicked off with 20 all-electric Nissan Leafs in London, an initiative that has been slowly expanding in the intervening months.

But while Uber has been touting its green credentials over the years, this latest announcement represents the first time anywhere in the world the company has committed to switching entirely to hybrid / full electric within a set time frame. This will also see diesel cars removed completely from the UberX service.

To incentivize car upgrades, Uber said that it’s setting up a new “clean air fund” that will offer drivers up to £5,000 ($6,500) toward the cost of a hybrid or electric vehicle. The company said that it expects drivers to claim more than £150 million ($200 million) to “transition to a greener car,” though it didn’t outline exactly how this system will work. Will it apply to all drivers, and must meet they meet other criteria to claim the maximum £5,000?

A spokesperson told VentureBeat that the company would provide further information to drivers about how they can access the fund in advance of its launch, some time in 2018. They added:

More information will be made available in the future but the fund will be available to Uber partner-drivers – including those who currently rent a vehicle – to access up to £5,000 towards the cost of upgrading their car to a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. The grant will only be available towards the cost of owning a vehicle not rental costs. We are currently in discussions with a number of independent third parties about the opportunity to administer the clean air fund.

Uber will start adding to the fund from October though, kicking off at first with a £2 million ($2,600,000) investment, followed by a £0.35 ($0.46) contribution for every ride (excluding UberPool) taken through the app in London.

“Air pollution is a growing problem and we’re determined to play our part in tackling it with this bold plan,” noted Fred Jones, Uber’s head of U.K. cities. “Londoners already know many cars on our app are hybrids, but we want to go much further and go all electric in the capital.”

For riders, Uber is also offering the first 1,000 people in London who scrap their pre-Euro 4 diesel vehicle up to £1,500 ($2,000) of credit to spend on Uber rides as part of a scrappage scheme.

“Our scrappage scheme will also take polluting vehicles off the road and encourage Londoners to get into a shared car to connect with public transport instead,” added Jones.

Switch to EV

Uber’s plan, though limited in scope in terms of global application, represents a broader shift in the automotive realm to cut emissions. For example, Volvo recently announced it would make only electric and hybrid cars from 2019.

While electric vehicles (EVs) have been slow to gain traction around the world, their market share have been steadily growing with Europe now the second biggest market for EVs after China. Many EU countries actively encourage EV uptake through tax reductions and exemptions.

There has been a flurry of activity elsewhere in the EV realm of late too, with Tesla’s mass-market Model 3 sedan entering production, and electric car charging network ChargePoint closed a gargantuan $125 million funding round to spearhead its push into Europe.

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