Ride-Sharing with Electric Vehicles Brings Benefits to Drivers and Consumers

January 15, 2019 | | Education

This is an exciting time in the electric vehicle (EV) landscape. Tesla just posted a profit for the first time, Volkswagen is helping to build up charging infrastructure across North America, and many other auto manufacturers are committing to an EV future. EVs are gaining traction and slowly transforming car-based mobility in the United States. And here in the Metro and throughout Minnesota, momentum is growing with collaborative efforts to drive EV adoption and infrastructure development.

While exploring one of the many areas where EVs are creating positive change, we caught up with two Lyft and Uber drivers to talk about their experience driving an EV for a ride sharing app. They told us all about the massive savings that have resulted from driving an EV, and we were delighted to discover that using an EV for a ride sharing app performs one of the most critical steps frequently identified in increasing EV adoption: getting people to experience EVs first hand.

Public awareness and education have consistently been some of the biggest barriers to an EV market transformation. As staff immersed in this work, we at times find it challenging to stay abreast of the rapidly advancing technology that powers EVs. Not surprisingly then, people who aren’t exposed to EVs on a daily basis often have concerns about range or performance that are largely based on inexperience with these vehicles and lack of knowledge. Opportunities for people to interact with EVs, like ride and drive events, let people see that EVs are just as viable for their driving needs as internal combustion engine vehicles, and often times provide benefits beyond what they could get from an internal combustion engine vehicle. And now, simply hailing a Lyft or Uber can provide that experience for lucky customers.

Kyle Conlon and Stephen Ronning, drivers for Uber and Lyft, were kind enough to tell us a little about their experiences driving an EV for these ride-sharing companies. Conlon drives a Chevy Bolt while Ronning drives a Tesla Model X. They both had amazing things to say about their customers’ time in the EVs. Conlon estimates that “98 percent of the people out of the 1200 rides that [he’s] done do realize that they’re in an electric vehicle right way… they start asking questions immediately. Most of the time, it’s what starts the whole conversation for the ride.” By enabling people to learn about EVs first hand, these drivers support the customer-experience approach that is gaining traction in EV market transformation work.

When we asked how their riders respond to the EV experience, both repeatedly emphasized how positive it is for their riders. It’s easy to see why. Conlon shared that his riders “seem to enjoy different pieces of it. For some, it’s the quiet ride; for others, it’s the acceleration.” Conlon and Ronning also mentioned that by simply being in an EV, their riders immediately begin to take EVs more seriously. Conlon added, “Once they realize how far I can go, and I explain how quick the charging system is, people become seriously interested in getting rid of their gas vehicle.”

When asked about their experience using their car in a ride-sharing service, the pros of EVs began to add up very quickly. For both drivers, fuel cost savings are staggering. Conlon stated, “I figured out the math: if I did six 12-hour days at 42 miles per gallon, it would be $900 per month in fuel alone. With the ZEF energy program that I am on and my home charging, I probably spend $60 per month in energy costs to run Uber. Also, I have 29,000 miles on my vehicle since January 2018, which would mean I have anywhere from six to eight oil changes that I have not had to do.” (No internal combustion engine means no oil changes for EVs!) Ronning shared, “I can say definitively that I am making more (more profit from driving for Lyft) given that I’m not paying for fuel… I charge for free at specific ramps downtown most of the time.”

On the topic of range anxiety and performance, Conlon eagerly told us, “Driving an EV has not limited my number of rides or range at all. I’ve only had one close call in 1,200 rides, but I still had five miles to get to a charging station.” Ronning said, “I can usually work for four to six hours without having to charge; when it’s not below 20 degrees, it’s not an issue at all.” While a cold climate does impact EV range, drivers in those climates are still purchasing EVs. Norway is the most prominent example of this in the world, with EVs making up nearly 30 percent of all new cars sold in the country.

The experiences of Conlon and Ronning are consistent with what we’ve found to be true across our work in Minnesota: EVs are transformative. These ride-sharing service drivers also demonstrate how an EV meets the needs of even the most demanding of drivers, with these two easily driving hundreds of miles per day. If you are a driver for a ride-sharing service looking to get a new car, consider an EV. Your fuel and maintenance savings will add up very quickly. And if you’re just in the market for a new car, EVs are here, and they can deliver a range of enticing benefits, from lower maintenance and fuel costs to a positive driving experience and significantly lower carbon emissions.