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Uber, the world’s largest ride hailing company, has committed to going all-electric by 2040, becoming a zero-emissions company.
To do so, it is spending $800 million through 2025 to get drivers to convert to battery-powered vehicles -- with hopes of having all rides in the U.S., Canada and Europe take place in electric vehicles as soon as 2030, with the rest of the world following by 2040.
The company is paving its way for a greener post-pandemic future and aligning itself with global efforts to be more environmentally aware and active, also committing to taking its corporate operations to net-zero emissions by 2030.
The announcement comes amidst huge losses for Uber, hard-hit by the global pandemic, and long-standing efforts by governments to push drivers away from traditional cars.
Uber, founded by computer programmer Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009, has long been criticized for its contribution to pollution and traffic. In its recently self-released Climate Assessment and Performance Report it stated its fleet was more polluting than average household vehicles due to deadheading and driving with no passengers.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement that 2020 had changed everything, costing many people their livelihoods, pushing businesses and cities into survival mode and widening existing inequities. And, importantly for Uber, the coronavirus pandemic had caused many cities to rethink their infrastructure to increase space for walking and cycling.
“Instead of going back to business as usual, Uber is taking this moment as an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact,” Khosrowshahi said.
“It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change. We want to do our part to build back better and drive a green recovery in our cities.”
The plan rests on four initiatives. The first is the launch of Uber Green, where customers can pay an extra dollar for an electric or hybrid vehicle and receive increased Uber Reward points. With customer and Uber contributions, drivers get an additional $1.50 per trip.
The second is its investment of $800 million to transitioning the fleet, and the third and fourth are commitments to expanding its multimodal network and working with accountability and transparency.
The company has partnered with GM Renault, and Nissan so drivers can access discounts on electric vehicles, and it is working with companies such as BP, EVgo, Enel X and PowerDot to expand charging stations.
The team to take it there
The multi-layerd effort will be spearheaded by Khosrowshahi, who manages a team of more than 22,000 employees in 63 countries. Khosrowshahi became the second-ever CEO of Uber, succeeding controversial founder Travis Kalanick in 2017.
At the time, the board said it was confident he was the best person to lead Uber into the future, building world-class products, transforming cities and adding value to the lives of drivers and riders around the world.
Khosrowshahi, previously the CEO of Expedia, has prioritized improving the company’s culture and relationships with riders and drivers, and led Uber in its IPO last year.
His ambitions are on full display with the latest announcement, and he said although Uber was not the first company to set ambitious goals on transitioning to electric vehicles, it intended to be the first to fulfill them.
“The world is at a critical juncture, and we all have a role to play,” he said. “Uber is aiming high. We’ll seek to build the most efficient, decarbonized, and multimodal platform in the world for on-demand mobility.”
Science and planning
A leader on the technology front will be Sundeep Jain, Uber’s VP of Technology. Jain, a UC Berkley and Harvard Business School graduate, is responsible for the company’s global ridesharing products including the rider and driver experiences and marketplace.
Jain will continue with his role of overseeing product functions like data science, experimentation, map services, enterprise products, safety and insurance, making him a key player in a smooth transition to sustainability.
On the operations front will be SVP Mobility and Business Operations Andrew Macdonald. Macdonald has spent more than eight years at Uber over different levels of the company and brings invaluable experience to his role overseeing global ridesharing operations and public transport partnerships – both of which will be core aspects of cutting emissions.
But Uber’s ambitions are not solely dependent on its own operations and technology, they will require rider, driver and government engagement and buy-in. Addressing this will be SVP of Marketing and Public Affairs Jill Hazelbaker, who leads global efforts across marketing, communications and public policy.
Having started her career in politics and leading press for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and presidential hopeful U.S. Senator John McCain, Hazelbaker is well-equipped at talking across sectors.
Hazelbaker, who was listed in Fortune’s 40 Under 40 this year, worked at Snap and Google prior to becoming one of Uber’s most prominent executives. She was one of the main advocates for Uber’s Safety Report, a public documentation of vehicle accidents, sexual assaults and murders on the company’s services, and will undoubtedly approach the company’s climate endeavors with the same level of company accountability.
As Khosrowshahi said in his statement, this was just the start and the company expected to be judged against its actions.
“The ultimate success of our business will rest on our ability to transition our platform to clean energy in partnership with drivers, industry innovators, and governments,” he said, adding it was the right thing to do.
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