Do you drive for Uber in Sacramento? Does your vehicle require a power outlet?
If so, you just got a raise.
Sacramento is one of seven North American cities selected to participate in a pilot program offering incentives to Uber drivers who use electric vehicles, the ride-sharing company announced Tuesday.
Beginning immediately, Uber is teaming up with local utility company SMUD to give drivers a combined extra $1.50 ($1.25 from SMUD, $0.25 from Uber) for each trip completed in a zero-emission vehicle. Drivers working in Sacramento but outside of SMUD's coverage area will still receive the $1.50 bonuses, Uber said in a news release.
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Sacramento appears to benefit from the best incentives in the program, which has been named the EV Champions Initiative. Only four of the seven pilot cities listed in the news release will offer extra payment for zero-emission rides. The three others that do — San Francisco, San Diego and Pittsburgh — will pay drivers an extra $1 per trip, Uber says.
Uber drivers in Sacramento who opt into the pilot program will also receive an RFID card that provides access to free charging at Electrify America's Greenlots.
SMUD's contribution to each ride comes from a combination of marketing funds and a credit that rewards clean energy users called the low carbon fuel standard credit, according to SMUD spokesperson Lupe Jimenez.
The city of Sacramento recently announced a $44 million investment from Electrify America, which Mayor Darrell Steinberg called a "game-changing investment for our city and our region."
“Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to emissions in Sacramento County, and electrifying transportation has the potential to have a tremendous impact,” Jimenez said. “It’s good for our environment, it’s good for our customers, and drivers actually save quite a bit of money when they switch to an electric vehicle from an internal combustion engine.”
Austin, Los Angeles and Montreal round out the rest of the program's pilot cities. Drivers in all seven locations will receive access to new educational resources and in-app features, the news release says. App improvements include better notifications regarding the range of the driver's electric vehicle.
Riders nationwide and in Montreal will also see a new feature on their Uber app: a notification indicating that the matched driver is operating an electric vehicle.
The Uber program has a goal of delivering at least 5 million electric vehicle rides within the next year.
A 2017 UC Davis study, cited by Uber, notes three recent revolutions (or "3R") in the world of transportation: electrification, ride sharing and automation.
"What we see over the years is that even though more people know that electric cars exist, the number of people who are engaged with the idea - who check if it’s the right car for them, and if they can get it for the right price - is not changing," said UC Davis research director Gil Tal. "That kind of support is exactly what we need, we need to find new ways to make people engage with the idea of electric cars."
The UC Davis report states in its conclusion that the combination of electrification and automation "does seem capable of providing deep energy and CO2 cuts." It also states, "There are fairly enormous efficiencies associated with shared mobility, including ride sharing in LDVs (light-duty vehicles) along with the use of small and large buses and urban rail systems."
Uber's EV Champions Initiative announcement follows recent concerns and controversy surrounding the company. A pedestrian fatality involving an Uber driverless vehicle in March occurred in Arizona and led to some anxiety in California, where autonomous vehicle testing by companies like Uber, Waymo and General Motors had already been going on for years.
The news release announcing the electric vehicle made no mention of autonomous or driverless vehicle technologies.
Last year, Uber's handling of a massive data breach that affected 57 million of its users also sparked heavy criticism.