Electric cars hit a new global sales record in 2017 — 1 million cars sold, with more than half of that in China — but there may be a hitch to mass adoption: the number of adequate charging stations available. Before consumers take the plunge on a new electric car, they need to know that they can charge it.
The number of electric charging stations in the US is small but growing. As of September 2018, there are an estimated 22,000 public charging stations in the US and Canada that are classified as level 2 and DC fast charging. (Typically, fast-charging stations supply 60 to 80 miles of range for every 20 minutes of charging.) By comparison, there are seven times more gas stations: about 168,000, according to FuelEconomy.gov.
Jaguar, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benzare all launching high-profile electric cars in 2019, and practically every major automaker is staking its future on lineups of fully electric vehicles. The rapid decrease in the price of batteries — more than 70 percent between 2008 and 2014 — and the introduction of more mass-market EVs is certainly encouraging some consumers to consider switching to electric. If these cars are going to be successful, though, drivers have to know they can recharge them.
Uber announced a slew of new safety features Wednesday intended to give both riders and drivers peace of mind when using the app.
The biggest change is a system called “Ride Check.”
Uber says it’s an extension of the GPS system that tracks riders and drivers within the app — only now, it will be leveraged to detect possible crashes and anomalies such as unusually long waits. The system will send an alert to both the rider and driver asking whether there’s an issue, and give them the option to contact authorities or reach Uber’s safety line.
Uber says the feature is tuned to “flag trip irregularities beyond crashes that might, in some rare cases, indicate an increased safety risk.”
City leaders need to reckon with the reality that sometimes shared ride services are not part of the answer to urban congestion, argues transportation researcher Bruce Schaller.
Last week, the New York City Council took a big step toward stemming the traffic-clogging proliferation of Uber and Lyft vehicles, temporarily halting issuance of new vehicle licenses as well as authorizing a wage floor for ride-hailing service drivers. The historic bills, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law on Tuesday, signal that these companies can no longer run roughshod over legislative bodies in pursuit of growth and eventual profits.
But there has been pushback to the idea, contained in both the legislation and in my recent report, “The New Automobility,” that Uber and Lyft’s impact on big-city traffic needs to be contained. Some of this resistance comes, not unexpectedly, from the companies themselves, which strongly object to the moratorium while also accepting the wage-related provisions.
Perhaps more notable was criticism from other quarters. In a recent CityLab post, for example, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase wrote that focusing on ride service growth “sets us up for failure” because Uber, Lyft, taxis and the like “account for just 1.7 percent of miles traveled by urban dwellers, while travel by personal cars accounts for 86 percent.” She calls for making “all shared modes of transit better and more attractive than driving alone.”
LYFT IS TESTINGsubscription models across the country, offering customers a package of rides for a flat, discounted fee. The packages promote Lyft loyalty and some bear a resemblance to transit passes.
One customer in the Boston area received an email on July 23 inviting the recipient to try Lyft’s All-Access Plan, which offers 30 standard rides worth up to $15 apiece for a flat fee of $299 a month. The user pays any ride cost greater than $15.
“Leave the car at home and save,” the Lyft email said. “We’re creating a new subscription plan to lock in 30 rides and you’ve been selected to test it first.”