Assessing ride-hailing company commitments to electrification

Published: 2019.02.20
By

Peter Slowik, Lina Fedirko, Nic Lutsey

This briefing assesses electric vehicle adoption among five of the world’s largest ride-hailing companies. It discusses company-specific electric vehicle adoption, examines plans for future growth, and catalogues the unique actions that companies are exploring to promote electric ride-hailing on their platforms. The briefing summary findings are as follows. 

Progress toward electrifying fleets varies greatly across the ride-hailing companies. Didi is at the vanguard of electrifying its ride-hailing fleet. Didi is well out in front of other companies with more than 260,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2017—about 1.3% of its entire fleet—and the number appears to be rapidly increasing. Ola has the second highest share with approximately 0.6% of its fleet electrified. Grab, Lyft, and Uber each appear to have electric vehicle shares less than 0.2%, or up to several thousand electric vehicles out of millions in operation. Overall, electric vehicles used in ride-hailing fleets lags that of the broader private vehicle market. While these electric vehicle deployments amount to serious efforts, they also clearly indicate that electric vehicles have not become a core part of ride-hailing companies’ business models.

Future goals to electrify fleets vary greatly by ride-hailing companies and by region. Didi has committed to rapid electrification. The company has set goals of 1 million electric vehicles by 2020 and 10 million by 2028, or up to a quarter of its fleet. Similarly, Ola’s target of 1 million electric vehicles by 2021 could amount to about one fifth of the company’s fleet, given its overall growth targets. The other companies have not set comparable goals. Lyft’s goal of 1 billion trips in autonomous electric vehicles could amount to less than 5% of its vehicles being electric by 2025. Uber’s goal of 5 million electric rides in North America by 2019 could amount to less than 1% of the company’s fleet being electric. These statements, despite regular and robust projections of electric vehicle cost competitiveness by 2025, show uncertainty about ride-hailing fleets transitioning completely to electric.

The diverse efforts to electrify ride-hailing fleets are evident in the ride-hailing companies’ local pilot projects. Uber, although among the most reluctant to commit to electrification, is implementing the most diverse range of electric vehicle programs. The company is experimenting with innovative electric vehicle programs in select local markets, include financial incentives for drivers, partnering with utilities to offer free charging, creating in-app features to support electric vehicle driving and charging, and committing to completely electrify its London operations within eight years. Other companies have established partnerships with electric vehicle manufacturers and charging providers to ensure alignment between charging deployment and drivers’ needs. More data are needed to better understand how electric ride-hailing vehicles are being driven and charged, so continued sharing of driving, parking, and charging location data is critical to aligning ride-hailing company and city goals. Cities that are planning to implement zero-emission-vehicle only driving areas in the future are especially attractive for such collaborations.