Uber has unveiled plans to charge customers a new 'clean air fee' for every mile they travel, which will be used to fund cleaner cars for drivers.
Though the press release – accompanied by images of an adorably fluffy green Uber car to sweeten us up – implies the company has decided to pledge £200m of its own money to clean up smog, a closer reading reveals they're actually planning to 'raise' the money by charging customers more.
"From early next year, a ‘clean air fee’ of 15p per mile will be included on every trip booked through the Uber app in London - every penny of which will go towards helping drivers to upgrade into an electric vehicle as well as other clean air initiatives. On an average trip in London, this will mean a clean air fee of around 45p.
Every driver using the app in London will be able to get assistance to help them move into an electric car. The amount of support drivers will receive towards the cost of an electric vehicle will be based on the number of miles they have driven on the app. For example, a driver using the app for an average of 40 hours per week could expect around £3,000 of support towards an EV in two years’ time and £4,500 in three years.
We expect to raise more than £200m to support drivers transitioning to electric vehicles over the next few years."
This means the plan, announced by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in London today, is less about Uber using some of the £2.1bn it earned from global taxi services in Q2 alone to improve the cities it operates in, and more about looking good while not having to foot the bill. It's apparently in response to Sadiq Khan's drive to clean up the city's smoggy miasma.
The new charge will fund a long-term aim of all Uber cars in London going electric by 2025, but of course since Uber drivers supply their own vehicles, this isn't something Uber can really enforce without giving the drivers some money. And since they apparently don't want to give any of their own, it's cab customers who'll be paying the incentives for the new cars, with the drivers covering the rest. Uber says 20,000 drivers should have upgraded by the end of 2021.
"The Mayor of London has set out a bold vision to tackle air pollution in the capital and we’re determined to do everything we can to back it. Our £200 million Clean Air Plan is a long-term investment in the future of London aimed at going all electric in the capital in 2025. Over time, it's our goal to help people replace their car with their phone by offering a range of mobility options - whether cars, bikes, scooters or public transport - all in the Uber app."
While it's undoubtedly a good thing that Uber intends to go electric, shifting the cost onto customers and drivers while not contributing anything besides a bit of app code seems a little underhand.
Surely if Uber truly believed this was the way to go, they'd put their (considerable) money into the pot and speed up the process?
After all, buying electric cars in 45p increments seems like a very roundabout way to get to their destination. Then again, that's Uber all over, isn't it?