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NYC All-Electric Rideshare Push Charges Ahead Amid Lawsuit

More than 7,500 new electric Uber and Lyft vehicles have been approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission since the start of the city’s Green Rides initiative, according to a lawsuit aimed at limiting the electric for-hire fleet.

Two dozen Uber and Lyft drivers lined up at a Tesla dealership in Brooklyn Thursday, hoping to get a new car ahead of a court-mandated pause on new plates for electric rideshare cars.
Evan Simko-Bednarski/TNS
(TNS) — More than 7,500 new electric Uber and Lyft vehicles have been approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission since the start of the the city’s Green Rides initiative in October, according to data in a lawsuit aimed at limiting the city’s electric for-hire fleet.

The 7,532 additional EVs bring the city’s for-hire electric fleet to 10,090 cars, or 12% of the city’s Uber and Lyft fleet. The commission still has 2,224 applications left to process, a TLC spokesman told the Daily News.

The numbers came up in a court hearing Wednesday over a suit brought by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance seeking to reinstate a cap on the total number of rideshare cars.

The number of cars allowed to have the coveted TLC plate — required by law to accept app-based hails — had been loosely capped since 2018, when then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council initiated a pause to address congestion and market saturation.

The Adams administration lifted the cap last fall under the Green Rides Initiative, which the city describes as a push to remake the city’s rideshare fleet so that by 2030 it is “entirely zero-emissions or wheelchair accessible.”

That plan was met with a suit from the Taxi Workers Alliance, which argued that the TLC didn’t have the legal authority to unilaterally change the license plate cap rules. The Taxi Workers Alliance insists that an influx of electric vehicles with TLC plates will saturate the market, hurting existing ride share drivers and yellow taxicab drivers.

In response, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Machelle Sweeting in November ordered a temporary stop to the new licenses while the suit worked its way through the court.

Sweeting granted a five-day grace period for those who may have already purchased an electric car. By its end, 9,756 applications had been filed to the TLC.

It was widely expected that those applications would take many months to approve, a process that includes a vehicle inspection. The information presented in court Wednesday was the first public acknowledgment that the approval process has happened much more quickly than initially thought.

Sweeting said Wednesday that she would wait for the TLC to issue its annual report on the for-hire vehicle market, due by March, before making further rulings in the case.

Meanwhile, the run on electric-earmarked TLC plates following Sweeting’s November restraining order seems to have moved the TLC closer to the electrification goal in the Green Rides Initiative.

While TLC Commissioner David Do had planned on having 5% of all app-based hails served by electric or wheelchair-accessible vehicles by the end of this year, the agency now seems poised to soon meet its December 2025 goal of converting 15% of all rides to electric or accessible vehicles.

A spokesman for Revel, an app-based ride company that maintains three public EV fast-charging stations in the city, told the Daily News that there’s been an large uptick in EV charging since the new cars came online.

“We’ve seen an increase from about 40 to 50 public charging sessions per day [in October] to now 300 to 400 public sessions per day,” said Revel spokesman Bobby Familiar.

©2024 New York Daily News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.