Uber UK today launched its Clean Air Plan, which sees the ridesharing company take several actions to reduce the ecological impact of its service, as well as motoring in general.
Perhaps the most intriguing element is its diesel scrappage scheme, which sees the company offer £1,500 (about $2,000) in free rides to members of the public who take their polluting diesel cars off the road.
Fred Jones, Uber’s Head of UK Cities, said: “Air pollution is a growing problem and we’re determined to play our part in tackling it with this bold plan. 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.”
The first 1,000 Londoners that scrap their pre-Euro 4 diesel cars (essentially, every diesel-powered vehicle manufactured before January 2005) will be eligible for the reward, which can be redeemed for UberPOOL and UberX rides. Those wishing to register their interest can do so here.
While Uber might be the first technology company to offer such a scheme, it’s by no means unique. Ford, for example, offers £2,000 against a new car for those ditching their old diesels.
Uber is also aiming to remove diesels from its UK fleet of cars. The company says that by 2019, 100-percent of its vehicles in London will be hybrid or fully electric.
The company says it’s halfway towards that goal, which feels believable. If you see a Toyota Prius in London, it’s almost always an Uber.
The company has set the same goal for its other UK cities – like Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, and Birmingham – for 2022.
By 2025, it wants its London fleet to be fully electric. That seems pretty ambitious, considering electric cars are still pretty expensive, and charging stations remain scarce. That said, the pace of progress is quickening, and BMW alone reckons it’ll have 12 models of EV by that year.
To assist drivers making the transition, Uber has created a Clean Air Fund – a ringfenced fund that’ll provide grants of up to £5,000 to drivers aiming to upgrade their vehicles. The company estimates that over the life of the fund, it’ll pay out in excess of £150 million.
Uber has seeded the fund with £2 million of funds. The rest will come directly from passengers, with 35p added to each ride taken in London.
A similar amount will be added to rides in other UK cities over the next year, although Uber didn’t mention how much, or indeed which cities will be next. Given the minimum fare varies wildly between cities (in Liverpool, it’s £3, while in London it’s £5), that makes sense.
It’s also worth mentioning that UberPOOL rides are excluded from this surcharge.
Finally, to support its upcoming burgeoning fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles, the company has installed a network of Uber-branded rapid chargers in Central London. These will be available exclusively to Uber partners.
While the 35p levy will undoubtedly be unpopular among its passengers, I’m glad to see Uber’s taking decisive action to limit the environmental impact of the service. Given that Uber is now a fundamental part of how Londoners get around, this move seems like it could make a real difference.