Uber Aims to Add 600 EVs to Portland Roads Through Xchange Leasing

Uber is bringing its electric vehicle program to the U.S., starting in Portland, Ore. And it appears the rideshare company’s finance subsidiary Xchange Leasing will play a large part in Uber’s goal to add 600 EVs to the road by 2019.

The environmental initiative aims to increase the percentage of EVs by Uber drivers from 1.6% to 10%; there are currently 6,000 Uber drivers in Portland, according to the company.

The program, which will begin in late May, follows similar pilot projects — called UberGREEN — in London, Lisbon, Madrid, Johannesburg, and Paris. Portland will be the first U.S. city to be a part of the company’s initiative, and Uber’s finance subsidiary Xchange Leasing will purchase electric vehicles and lease them to drivers in order to meet the goal. The company will also work with local partners like Drive Oregon, Black Parent Initiative, Cynergy E-Bikes, and carmaker Arcimoto.

While it may seem an oddly altruistic move for a cut-throat company like Uber to try to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the expansion to electric vehicles has significance for its bottom line. For one, these EV programs help ensure that as EV adoption naturally increases, Uber will not only be a part of that transportation shift but will also help lead the change. A program like this will also help Uber influence how these cars are made by third parties, and establish itself as a middleman in EV leasing, “potentially developing that business into a useful revenue stream to diversify from basic transportation (or delivery) on-demand services,” according to a published report.

Drive Oregon, a not-for-profit based in Portland, works to expand the use of electric vehicles throughout the state, and it will work with Uber to train Uber EV Ambassadors. Drive Oregon will produce educational materials for the drivers.

“Uber’s EV Ambassadors program provides drivers who choose to go electric with an opportunity to earn more while they drive by educating riders about the benefits of electrical vehicles,” according to Uber’s website.

Black Parent Initiative (BPI), a group that works with under-served communities, will work with Uber through an outreach and education campaign to recruit EV Ambassadors from those communities. Additionally, Cynergy E-Bikes, a Portland retailer, is partnering with Uber to make up to 20 of their e-bikes available to be used for UberEATS. It is unclear whether Uber purchased these vehicles and are leasing them to restaurants or delivery persons.

And Arcimoto will also work with Uber on this project. Acrimoto — which will partner with Uber this summer — is an electric vehicle designer and manufacturer headquartered in Eugene, Ore. “Uber will use the power of its large rider and driver network to help Arcimoto market the summer program to both Portland-area residents and visitors,” according to Uber. That is also when Arcimoto plans to start delivering its Signature Series electric vehicles to customers.

“Everyone who rides in one of their vehicles up here in this program will get more information about the advantages of the electric drive and ways they can try it out themselves,” Mark Frohnmayer, Arcimoto founder, said in a published report. “That’s how Arcimoto will plug in this summer, as part of that marketing program.”

Arcimoto vehicles are the futuristic looking three-wheeled vehicles, with motorcycle handlebar-style steering and two seats. Arcimoto is building six vehicles, with plans to manufacture up to 100 by yearend, Frohnmayer said.

Uber’s investment comes as car manufacturers devote more interest to electric vehicles that serve a range of needs — from consumer cars to pursuit-rated police vehicles.

Uber did not respond for comment by press time.

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