A cross-continental coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is asking the taxi and ride sharing industry to commit to switching to 100% "clean rides" by 2025.
Transport and Environment, the European umbrella for companies promoting sustainable transport, said NGOs from the US, Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium have all called on companies like Uber to make several commitments to reduce transport emissions. The campaign, #TrueCostOfUber, is focussing on Uber in particular as a figurehead of the industry and is backed by a full report looking at the environmental impact of the private hire industry.
It is asking for taxi and ride sharing companies to commit to working with public transport agencies beyond small pilots, to help reduce vehicle miles traveled in all major cities.
Uber, which has just had its licence to operate revoked by Transport for London (TfL), has seen drivers that use its app switch to low emission vehicles thanks to the ultra low emission zone that came into force in April this year.
The campaign wants Uber to commit to having at least 50% of rides on the service being shared by 2030 and to create policies that incentivise pooled riders.
It also wants all future autonomous vehicles on the platform to be electric and predominantly shared vehicles.
The NGOs have also called on Uber to share up-to-date operational data with public transport authorities. This includes the number of trips, trip origin and destination, time and duration of trips, trip distance, number of vehicles available in the service, number of drivers available in the service and number of users.
The campaign argues that companies like Uber are adding more polluting car trips to already congested cities.
Data compiled by Euromonitor for Transport & Environment (T&E) shows a surge in the number of private hire drivers (PHV) in the past few years.
In France, which liberalised the taxi market in 2015, the number of reported PHV drivers doubled in three years (from more than 15,000 in 2016 to 30,000 in 2019).
While Uber doesn’t disclose the exact number of drivers using the app, based on media reports and official databases the number operating in London almost doubled in three years (from 25,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2018), accounting for roughly half the total PHV licence number.
This has made Uber one of the biggest taxi services in Europe, with 3.6 million users in London in 2019 and with 2.7 million users in France in 2017. Uber maintains that it is an app provider, rather than a taxi service, saying its app connects private hire drivers and customers that need a taxi.
T&E’s analysis estimates that in London and Paris alone, the emissions of Uber taxi services could be as high as half a megatonne of CO2 - 515 kilotonnes of CO2.
This is equivalent to adding the CO2 emissions of an extra 250,000 privately owned cars to the road.
Yoann Le Petit, new mobility expert with T&E, said: “Uber’s chief executive tells us they ‘do the right thing, period.’
“But the reality is that Uber is part of the traffic and pollution problem, adding car trips in our cities and adding to the climate and pollution crisis. If it wants to become part of the solution Uber needs to stop using petrol and diesel cars and rapidly shift to 100% electric rides. That’s the right thing to do, full stop.”
Greg Archer, director of Transport & Environment UK, said that Uber has already committed to 100% clean rides in London by 2025. He said this proves it is possible for Uber to operate this way.
He said: "So our question to Uber is: why not Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds? Are those second-class citizens? Are their lungs any different?”