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Lyft Wants to Go All-Electric by 2030, But It Won’t Be Easy

The rideshare company plans to have only electric vehicles operating on its platform by the end of the decade. That goal is built on the assumption that current trends hold and that policymakers do their part.

by / June 19, 2020

Ride-hailing giant Lyft plans to place all of its riders in electric cars by the end of the decade.

The company announced a pledge to work toward 100 percent electric mobility by 2030, perhaps one of the most ambitious sustainability goals put forward by the ride-hailing industry.

“This is going to be no small task. It assumes a lot of things,” said Jon Walker, sustainability policy manager at Lyft, in a webinar Friday.

Some of those assumptions are built on the continuation of trends already seen in the electric car market, like the improved desirability of EVs as prices drop and the number of available models increases. The move also assumes public policy continues to move in a direction more friendly to EVs, such as efforts to expand charging infrastructure and purchase incentives.

Where Lyft aims to focus much of its early attention is in the various car rental agreements it has with companies like Hertz and Flexdrive, where drivers can rent a car for driving on the Lyft platform. As part of these partnerships, Lyft can require that electric vehicles are part of the fleet of available vehicles for rent. The company has already moved forward with fleet partners in Denver, Seattle and Atlanta.

“We have grand plans for increasing that program,” said Walker in comments during the webinar, hosted by Forth, an EV advocacy and education organization in Portland, Ore. “That’s going to ramp up first. We’re going to be able to have the rental vehicles be electric sooner and faster. And we think by about 2027, 2028, all of our rental vehicles will be electric.”

Transitioning transportation network companies (TNCs) toward a more sustainable business model is not a new idea. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a recent report concluding that ride-hailing contributes 69 percent more air pollution than the trips they displace. Electrification and more shared rides were offered as a combination of options TNCs should embrace to reduce their outsize contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

And indeed, the roadmap released by Lyft to achieve 100 percent electrification by 2030 is largely predicated on events outside of the company’s immediate control, like cost parity between EVs and gas-burning cars; a steady supply of long-range, second-hand EVs entering the auto market; and ride-hailing drivers willing to purchase or rent these cars.

“Baked into our assumption, is mutually beneficial policy-making. So we’re not saying, everybody sit tight, and sit back, Lyft has this,” said Walker. “We’re putting our necks out to say, 'We’re committed to this, but we can’t get there unless we have policy that works.' So we need state tax credits to work for our programs. We need utility programs to work for our programs. And we need other policies to help us get there."

“Without good policy, we’re not going to make it,” he added. “If regulators and policy-makers sit back and say, oh, this is all on Lyft. It’s not going to happen, and we’re going to fail.”

The growth of the EV market has been on the upswing for at least a decade, driven in part by the same sort of trends Lyft is counting on: an increase in the number of models, increased range, reduced price and a friendly set of public policies put in place to grow the industry. And even with a worldwide recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, those trends may take a momentary pause, but will likely keep moving forward, experts say.

“EVs have always been driven by external forces,” said Chelsea Sexton, co-founder of Plugin America, during a previous Forth webinar last month.

Consumers should not expect a $25,000 EV without incentives until about 2025, said John Voelcker, journalist and analyst covering advanced auto technologies and policies around them, in his comments during Forth’s May webinar.

Lyft anticipates that by about 2024 new EVs will be on cost parity with gas models, helping to tip the scales of consumer demand.

“We need to have a lot of used, long-range, fast-charge electric vehicles available on the used market. And at that point it’s actually going to make a ton of sense,” said Walker. “It’s going to be silly to drive a gas-car on the platform. Because an electric vehicle is cheaper, in all regards.”

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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