Automakers will increasingly find themselves in a complicated relationship with ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber. The latter will be competitors but also customers. In the next few years, sales to drivers for Lyft, Uber and others will almost certainly offset declines in car purchases by users of the services. As shared mobility services expand, auto manufacturers will likely start producing customized vehicles for ride-hailing companies — even as their own mobility services compete head-to-head.
Today, Lyft and Uber have almost no hard assets and are essentially internet-platform companies. Managing and owning vehicles clashes with their current business model. But once level-5 driverless cars come on the scene, they will have little choice. It appears inevitable that they will embrace a new business model that involves ownership of vehicles. A huge part of the success of demand-responsive, app-based ride-hailing companies will be their ability to profit as proprietors of capital, which will mean owning and operating a fleet of automated electric cars. So just as self-driving cars have pulled Detroit into the Silicon Valley game, the power of fleet ownership will likely force ride-hailing companies into partnership with manufacturers.
The rapid growth of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft, Uber and Ride Austin creates a unique opportunity for vehicle electrification, with benefits to cities, drivers and riders. In New York and San Francisco, TNC and cab rides account for 19 percent of all local vehicle miles traveled during weekdays. If half of these TNC drivers went electric, they would offset 1.5 billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year and improve local air quality within the city.
In addition to these environmental benefits, electric vehicles are also significantly cheaper to operate than gas vehicles, despite having a higher upfront price tag. This can be attributed to savings in fuel and maintenance, which scale by how much the vehicle is driven. Highly active TNC drivers are ideal candidates for EVs because they put more miles on their car each year than the average driver. Based on our calculations, full-time TNC drivers working 50 hours a week can save an average of $5,200 per year in total vehicle expenses with an EV as compared to a typical gas vehicle.
The mobility team at Rocky Mountain Institute has been targeting high-utilization vehicles for electrification, as they demonstrate the best economics for EV operation and the highest potential for carbon offset. For the past two years, RMI has partnered with the City of Austin, Texas, to support its mobility goals toward developing shared, electric and autonomous mobility services. Austin offers unique EV charging programs that further bolster the economic savings of driving an electric vehicle.
EV Safe Charge, a U.S.-based electric vehicle (EV) charging installation and services company, has launched EV Charge Mobile, a solution for portable Level 2 and DC fast-charging.
The electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) system can provide event organizers, for example – or any site in need of temporary EV charging – a charging option for any make of EV, the company says. The system can be added to existing charging infrastructure or can be self-contained.
EV Charge Mobile is now available nationwide to those seeking both networked and non-networked EVSE and can be customized to satisfy specific event or other temporary needs, the company explains. Businesses considering a permanent EV charger installation or waiting for infrastructure to be built can have the benefit of EV charging immediately.