Uber has pledged to invest more than GBP5m in public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in some of the poorest boroughs in London, to help persuade its reluctant drivers to switch to electric cars.
The global ride-hailing firm will announce the investment, which it admits is only a fraction of the money needed, as it seeks to highlight the imbalance across the capital in the installation of charge points.
According to Uber’s analysis, the concentration of chargers is far higher in affluent boroughs, such as Kensington and Westminster, than in the areas where its drivers more typically live. Drivers in boroughs such as Newham and Tower Hamlets are also less likely than residents of south-west London to live in houses with driveways that allow them to charge electric vehicles overnight.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said the GBP5m funding would be invested by 2023 in areas that lack the charging infrastructure they need to support electric vehicles, with the firm looking to work with the borough councils in Newham, Brent and Tower Hamlets to decide how it should be spent.
He said: “Drivers consistently tell us that having reliable, accessible charging near where they live is a key factor when deciding if they should switch to electric.
“If we address this challenge for professional drivers now, it will help create a mass market for electric vehicles in the years to come. As we all know this is critical if the UK is to achieve our goal to be net zero.”
Only about 1,000 Uber vehicles in London are fully electric – a long way short of the firm’s pledge that all 45,000 cars on its app in the capital should be electric by 2025.
London is nonetheless where Uber is spearheading its ambition for zero-emission fleets worldwide by 2040. It struck a deal with Nissan earlier this year to supply 2,000 discounted Leafs for London drivers.
Uber is sitting on a fund of more than GBP100m raised through its self-imposed clean air fee in London, designed to help drivers transition to electric cars. The 15p per mile levy on passengers was announced in 2018 as Uber attempted to restore its battered corporate image, after Transport for London refused it a licence.
Magistrates again granted a licence for Uber to continue operating in London last month after a court ruled it “no longer posed a risk”, a year after Transport for London refused for a second time to extend its licence over safety concerns.