Q&A with Laura Miller of Uber Canada

The Peak: Right now transportation accounts for just over 20% of Canada's total GHG emissions, so reducing that is going to be an essential part of achieving our climate targets. How does Uber, and ridesharing more generally, fit into that path towards net-zero?

Laura Miller: As the largest mobility platform in the world, we know that our impact goes beyond our technology. That’s why we’re becoming a zero-emission platform globally by 2040, and in Canadian cities with supportive policies – like Montreal and Vancouver – by 2030. Millions of rides a day. Zero emissions. That’s our commitment to every single person on the planet. We’re going to do this by offering riders more ways to ride green, whether it’s EV trips or providing transit or micromobility options in the app, helping drivers go electric, and partnering across the ecosystem to fight climate change.

The Peak: Transitioning to EVs is of course a critical part of our transition to net-zero—how does Uber plan to help shift more drivers to EVs?

Laura Miller: In a recent survey of drivers in Canada, we found that 71% are interested in switching to an EV. This is significant as we know that these drivers drive more than the average person, meaning every one that switches to an EV has an outsized impact on putting green kilometers on our streets. But we also know that it can be challenging for drivers to make a big decision like transitioning to EV. That’s why so much of our sustainability efforts have been focused on supporting drivers in making the switch from gas to EV. 

We’ve partnered with Plug’n Drive to provide informative webinars and hosting test drive opportunities for drivers on the Uber platform to learn about benefits and the cost of owning an EV. Shell Recharge is bringing more charging stations to B.C. Wallbox and FLO are offering discounts on home charging solutions. General Motors is giving discounts to drivers on the Chevrolet Bolt EV. And drivers of fully electric vehicles are eligible for Uber’s Zero Emissions incentive, which lets them earn an extra $1 on every trip with Uber up to $4,000.

The Peak: What has been the response of drivers to Uber's efforts to encourage EV adoption to date? What are the main challenges and roadblocks you've encountered?

Laura Miller: Our main objective has been about helping further awareness and overall understanding of EVs, from the total cost of ownership to figuring out charging solutions. 

We know that there is great interest from drivers on the platform with 71% saying they want to make the switch to an EV. This year, we partnered with Plug’n Drive, a non-profit committed to accelerating EV adoption. Plug’n Drive is creating and offering webinars as well as hosting test drive opportunities for drivers. This gives drivers the opportunity to learn about the total cost of owning an EV and the benefits of making the switch from gas to electric. 

Going green is truly a team sport. Progress towards a fully electric platform will only be achieved where we band together across the ecosystem — government, industry, ridesharing companies and NGOs. 

Progress in Europe shows it can be done by working with local officials, partnerships with automakers, and helping make EVs more affordable. Rideshare drivers are going electric in Europe nearly five times faster than average European private car owners. The number in London is eight times faster. 90% of new vehicles joining the platform in London are now fully electric and 5,000 drivers piloting EVs. 45% of the vehicles on the platform in Paris are hybrid or fully electric. In the leading cities, policies are in place that make the total cost of ownership of an EV significantly lower than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

The Peak: How does the adoption of EVs change the economics of the ridesharing industry? For example, if a driver has an EV and doesn't have to buy gas anymore, does that ultimately translate into higher pay for drivers? Lower costs for riders?

Laura Miller: Driving an EV is good for the environment - and it’s also good for drivers. Drivers see financial benefits in gas savings, EV incentives, and tips. 

The gas savings are real, especially in recent months with record high prices, which means drivers get to keep more of the money they earn. While many drivers have reported increased tips, drivers can also enjoy higher earnings potential due to Uber’s Zero Emissions Incentive, which currently provides an extra $1 more per trip up to $4,000 annually. 

We launched Uber Green in September 2020, a low-emission ride option that connects riders with drivers using hybrid and fully electric vehicles. On each Uber Green trip, EV drivers earn an extra $0.50 paid by riders when they select Uber Green. This $0.50 is in addition to extra earnings from the Zero Emissions incentive.

The Peak: Riders in some US cities have access to Uber's comfort electric ride option—any word on when Canadians will be able to pick an EV for their next Uber ride?

Laura Miller: In Canada, riders have the choice right now to join us on the ride toward a green future with Uber Green. Uber Green is a low-emission ride option that connects riders with hybrid or fully electric vehicles. By choosing Uber Green, riders are helping to make their city more sustainable. Each Uber Green trip in a hybrid or electric vehicle produces at least 25% fewer carbon emissions than the average trip. We’ll be looking to bring new options like comfort electric ride options to Canada in the future.

The Peak: We all know that transit has a major role to play in addressing climate change, and some have expressed worry that more ridesharing means less transit. Can you speak to that, and talk about how Uber interacts with transit services, now and in the future?

Laura Miller: Just the opposite. Ridesharing can play a role in reducing car ownership and increasing transit ridership. 

In September 2020, we launched Transit Journey Planning in Vancouver and Montreal, making public transit options available in the Uber app. Transit Journey Planning helps riders choose the quickest, most affordable way to get from A to B, featuring local transit pricing, timing, delays, and service alerts.

Last fall, we announced Uber+Transit as a pilot in the Greater Toronto Area. By looking at transit schedules and UberX availability, the app suggests a combined route that’s both convenient and affordable. 

To get more people to take transit and leave their cars at home, we are eager to work with transit agencies to offer real-time transit information and door-to-door transportation options. 

Cities across the country have ambitious transit plans that will bring quality transit to more people in more neighbourhoods over the next decade. But we need to find ways for people to access these new stations and stops without depending on their cars. Uber can help do that. 

Uber could offer agency-subsidized trips that begin or end at transit stops or give people a reliable option to request rides when transit isn’t running like we did with Pinellas County, Florida. Uber could also help develop transportation options for new routes like we did with Innisfil, Ontario

The Peak: Uber has committed to being a zero-emission platform by 2040. Can you talk about what means in practice, and paint a picture of what Uber looks like in 2040? How will it be different for riders than it is today?

By 2040, 100% of rides will be in zero-emission vehicles. We’re also setting an earlier goal to have 100% of rides take place in EVs by 2030 in Canadian cities with supportive policies like Montreal and Vancouver. We’re also committed to reaching net-zero emissions from our corporate operations by 2030. 

We are also looking at integrating with transit and micromobility. Riders in Vancouver can see and book nearby e-scooters or e-bikes in the Uber app, making it easier than ever to choose clean, active mobility options. We want to expand this to cities across the country. We’re also redoubling our investment in Uber Transit solutions. The more transportation options people have at their fingertips, the easier it becomes to get around without owning a car. 

The Peak: A lot of the movement on climate is being driven by policy, and that's been good for some businesses and caused problems for others—how does the broader push to drive down emissions impact Uber as a business? Is it positive or will it create new challenges?

Laura Miller: At Uber, we believe that sustainability is integral to the success of our business. Addressing climate change, reducing our own emissions, and helping Uber platform users move toward a lower-carbon future is the right thing to do.

As a global company, challenges and opportunities differ according to policy and local contexts, but the goal is the same: do our part to help the world meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, while building long-term value for our stakeholders. 

In Canada, the federal government has a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. We, as a country, are only going to get there if companies take on the responsibility of changing the way they do business. At Uber, we’re doing our part by setting an earlier goal of becoming a fully electric platform by 2040, and in Canadian cities with supportive policies–like Montreal and Vancouver–by 2030. Teaming up and working across the ecosystems–government, businesses, nonprofits–will be vital in delivering our common goal for a cleaner, greener future.

This interview is paid promotional content paid for by Uber Canada.