Uber will start paying EV drivers in bid to boost electric cars

Targeting 5 million rides in electric vehicles over the next 12 months

Uber has announced a yearlong pilot program to boost the use of electric vehicles by its drivers, targeting at least 5 million rides in electric vehicles over the next year. It'll even start paying subsidies to some of those drivers.

The program, called the EV Champions Initiative, kicked off Tuesday in seven cities — Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. The Los Angeles Times reports that Uber is testing different EV incentives in each market. In San Diego, it says, drivers of EVs can get a dollar-per-ride bonus for using plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles, with a maximum bonus of $20 per week.

Additionally, drivers who use electrified vehicles will get additional perks on the Uber smartphone app, including information about state and local EV programs and a 30-minute trip notification so they can plan accordingly if the vehicle needs charging. Riders who hail an Uber will also be notified when they are paired with the driver of an electric vehicle.

Uber says, citing various studies, that blending electric vehicles with ride-sharing can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and lower transportation's climate footprint. It's partnering with the University of California-Davis, electric utilities and various nonprofit agencies to find ways to boost levels of EV adoption.

Uber's announcement follows rival Lyft's initiative to offset the carbon footprint of its entire fleet of ride-sharing vehicles by purchasing carbon offsets. A Lyft spokeswoman told the L.A. Times the company has nearly 100,000 electric vehicles on its platform.

"We're excited to continue working with riders, drivers and cities around the world to facilitate access to more sustainable transportation and work towards solutions that can improve our lifestyles and our cities," Adam Gronis, Uber's global lead for sustainability and environmental impact, wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative.

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