There are two good reasons to move to electric vehicles (EVs). They are much cheaper to run than comparable internal combustion engine models and they are far greener, even when charged from coal power stations. Oh, but wait! They are very expensive to buy, lack range, and take forever to charge up again. Or are they?
Uber does not think so. The ride-hailing giant is known for two things: cutting edge technology and the ability to provide a better service at a lower cost than anybody. In terms of technology, Uber did not invent ride-hailing – the taxi has been around forever – but they created a new platform to use the service better and more efficiently. Their drive to keep at the leading edge of technology did not stop there either. The company has invested heavily in self-driving vehicles, other forms of mobility sharing and even an off-the-wall self-flying aircraft/drone option.
So it’s no surprise that Uber is looking to EVs in the immediate future – like having half its European fleet electrified by 2025. To put that into perspective, Uber in London currently operates 45 000 vehicles. And their scheme is aimed at Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, Paris and Madrid as well – accounting for 80% of its European business.
So that translates into 100 000 to 200 000 EVs in the next few years. Suddenly we have to question the assumption that EVs are too expensive and inefficient. So let’s look at the vehicles, the deal and how it is structured.
Firstly they chose the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf as their EVs of choice, both everyday soccer mom or sensible dad cars, mature in technology that offers an all-round package of price and range that would work for Uber. Note also that Renault and Nissan are in an alliance (with Mitsubishi), so were better able to bargain on this huge deal.
The two carmakers will offer around R100 000 discount on their cars as part of this deal, as well as take part in a marketing and education drive to both drivers and the Uber-using public. Uber customers will soon be able to specify an EV when they order their ride.
Renault and Nissan will benefit in three ways: firstly they will obviously sell a lot more EVs, creating economies of scale that will allow cheaper manufacture, which will allow them to sell more cars, which . . . you get the idea. Secondly, it will help develop the EV charging infrastructure in these major cities – a crucial but expensive step in making EVs more accessible as personal vehicles. And thirdly, it will help place the EV in the mainstream, moving it from the ‘green, but expensive and a lot of bother’ to ‘if this can work for Uber and they can make money on it, it will work for me’.
Renault’s relentless pursuit of the sensible Zoe is paying off in a big way. Many EVs today are flashy Teslas, BMWs and such, very exciting and sexy, but not always that practical for you and me. There is nothing wrong with flash when it comes to cars and Renault offers everything from really hot hatches to great SUVs, as well as several sensible cars. You can view the full Renault range here. Let’s hope the Zoe is added to this list sooner rather than later.