Regulators mandate Uber, Lyft to switch to electric vehicles over emissions

*Stakeholders the mandate could put a heavy financial burden on drivers, many of whom say they have a hard enough time making ends meet driving their present vehicles

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Citing issues of curbing emissions and protecting the health of consumers in the ecosystem, California State regulators in the United Stars (US) have ruled that 90 percent of the miles driven by Uber and Lyft must be in electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030.

The California Air Resources Board says the mandate is designed to curb emissions from ride-hailing trips, but the data shows it is a tall order, says agency report.

It was learnt that in 2018, EVs accounted for less than 1 percent of miles travelled by rideshare drivers in the state.

Electric vehicles at a charging point 

Observers have contended even if the shift is possible, it will come at a price.

According to them, EVs cost more than gasoline-powered vehicles.

The average sale price of an EV is more than $50,000, although cheaper vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 have sticker prices between $30,000 and $40,000.

Then, there’s the charging infrastructure to keep them going –the charging systems and the electricity they supply.

It is said that could put a heavy financial burden on drivers, many of whom say they have a hard enough time making ends meet driving their present vehicles.

Labor and environmental groups, in comments to the board, say the ride-sharing companies and not the drivers must pay for it. Some drivers agree.

“The companies should pay all expenses for all the vehicles, all the time. But that’s not happening,” Nicole Moore, a Lyft driver in Los Angeles, told Energy News Network. “The cost of the fleet is on the drivers, the cost of the fuel is on the drivers, everything is on the drivers.”

The latest directive is regarded as the second blow the state of California has delivered to the ridesharing industry in the country.

Previously, the state ruled ─ and a state court affirmed ─ that drivers must be treated and paid as employees and not independent contractors.

The Biden administration has sided with those advocating benefits and legal protections for so-called gig workers who are classified as independent contractors.

In doing so, however, it presents the ride-sharing business model with radical changes.

Both Uber and Lyft are based on apps that link independent drivers with riders. The drivers own their own vehicles, pay all the expenses, but drive as little or as much as they want.

In doing so, they meet the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) current definition of an independent contractor, which says “the general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”

ConsumerConnect gathered from an earlier study late 2020, however, that nearly 20 percent of electric car consumers in California State desired to return to gasoline.

Researchers also found that many owners think charging vehicles for transportation is too much of a hassle.

Surveys have consistently shown that consumers have not yet displayed much enthusiasm for electric vehicles (EV).

But the auto industry, under pressure from various governments, is increasingly committed to producing mostly EVs in the years ahead, report said.

Now, there’s more troubling data for the industry. A study published in Nature Energy looks into the reason that many California EV buyers have gone back to gasoline-powered transportation.

In short, the researchers found that a number of EV owners consider the cars a hassle.

The researchers wrote: “We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles, and not being male.”

The volts supplied by the outlet charging the vehicle appear to be a key factor. Standard home outlets ─ the kind you might have in your garage ─ supply only 120 volts of electricity. It could take days to fully charge an EV battery, they noted.

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