As cities push to decarbonize urban environments, Uber's role in urban transportation poses a serious challenge. A growing body of evidence suggests that ride-hailing increases emissions compared to not only public transit but even conventional car ownership. Uber has set a target to electrify all vehicles providing rides on its platform by 2030 – a daunting task, considering that it does not own its vehicles. Uber's tumultuous relationship with London can trace its roots back to labor disputes and the impact on emissions in the city.
As part of its electrification efforts, Uber recently announced a partnership with Arrival to develop an electric vehicle optimized for ride-hailing. The final design should be released before the end of 2021, with production beginning in 2023.
USE CASE AND BUSINESS IMPACT
Uber has thus far taken a multipronged strategy to reduce emissions from its fleet. It formed partnerships to deploy infrastructure to support electric vehicles, recognizing this aspect as a key barrier to adoption within its drivers. It has also worked directly with automakers to reduce the costs of electric vehicles, securing a roughly $2,500 discount on the Chevy Bolt in North America along with 20% discounts on charging equipment.
In its larger cities in North America, the company has gone as far as paying drivers more for driving low- or zero-emissions vehicles while passing some of those costs onto consumers who opt for "green rides." Uber's partnership with Arrival represents an increased commitment to reducing fleet emissions, and those interested should expect Uber to offer financial incentives to drivers purchasing the vehicle.
While they have not offered any firm details about the vehicle, Uber and Arrival have a tremendous opportunity to create a disruptive electric vehicle. There's one key question that matters more than any other about this vehicle – will it include battery swapping? Uber has already partnered with Ample to explore its swapping solution, but we noted that Ample would be limited by incumbent automakers wanting to retain control of pack design.
Arrival has stated that it is developing its own pack technology, but as a company focused on commercial vehicles like vans and buses, a battery swapping solution would be attractive to its other customers. Innovators should keep a close watch on this partnership and any activities involving both Arrival and Ample, as this vehicle could be the first to pioneer Ample's swapping solution.