Why Uber and Lyft are failing to go electric

Gig economy

Uber[1] and Lyft[2] have both promised that “100 percent” of their fleets will be electric by 2030. It’s looking less and less like that will actually happen.[3]

The Bloomberg article cites purchase costs and a driver income that’s still low but much higher[4] than is generally believed[5] as obstacles to electric vehicle adoption. Yes, I, too, am absolutely enchanted with the operating costs of an electric vehicle.[6] But it’s simply not presently practical. I think it will be, but I don’t know how soon.

Apparently unlike most Uber and Lyft drivers, I have good to excellent credit (easily excellent by Toyota’s standards), so I probably could finance a more expensive (to buy) electric car. But as an Uber/Lyft driver, I see two major problems with trying to go electric:

  1. Range: The maximum range I found for an electric car usable with Uber and Lyft was 305 miles.[7] I strongly doubt this is the usable range both because range estimate are likely exaggerated just like Environmental Protection Agency gas mileage estimates and because you have to set aside enough of a charge to get to a charging station. I’m presently averaging 168 miles per day, but 250-plus mile days are not uncommon and I had a 356-mile day less than a month ago.

    Plus, driving for Uber and Lyft isn’t my entire life. I expect to take a trip cross-country to retrieve more of my stuff from California early next year. I’m expecting to drive 600 plus miles per day (down from the 800 I targeted when I moved east a couple years ago). I really want to preserve that option, and not just for this particular trip, but if I have to take several hours per day to charge my car, because the charging rate slows as the battery reaches a full charge,[8] even with a 300-mile range, there’s no way that works.

  2. Charging: I live in an apartment. While I have a garage in my present apartment (I’m planning to move later this year), it does not have electricity and my next apartment might not have a garage at all. I would be at the mercy of high-priced charging stations. My present status with Uber would mean a 25 percent discount on EVGo’s standard rates, but only for an hour of high-speed charging time.[9] This would almost certainly not be enough and there is a risk the high speed charging might shorten battery life, particularly if it is the only charging method used.[10]

    And, um, yeah, I actually am wondering what a battery replacement does to those operating costs.

So I’m still looking at a Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid, probably later this year.

Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft


  1. [1]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  2. [2]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030
  3. [3]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  4. [4]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  5. [5]Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/
  6. [6]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  7. [7]Ford Motor Company, “2021 Mustang Mach-E California Route 1,” 2021, https://www.ford.com/suvs/mach-e/models/mach-e-california-route-1/
  8. [8]Pod Point, “How Long Does It Take To Charge an Electric Car?” May 28, 2020, https://pod-point.com/guides/driver/how-long-to-charge-an-electric-car
  9. [9]EVGo, “Save on EVgo Fast Charging with Uber!” 2020, https://uber.evgo.com/?uclick_id=bd6462cc-9bc1-4e84-99f2-ae8aec4dfd08
  10. [10]MYEV, “Is DC Fast Charging Bad For Your Electric Car?” n.d. https://www.myev.com/research/interesting-finds/is-dc-fast-charging-bad-for-your-electric-car

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