Environmentally conscious Lyft riders will soon be able to summon a hybrid or electric vehicle with the tap of an icon, rejecting the conventional combustion engine as their commuting mode of choice, according to a company announcement Wednesday.
Lyft’s “Green Mode” seems aimed at easing the concerns of those who rely on ride-hailing to get around but are conscious of the impact their habit might have on the environment. Users will be able to hail one of thousands of new electric vehicles being brought onto the platform along with existing hybrids, beginning first in Seattle on Wednesday before the feature expands to other areas of the country over the rest of 2019.
Green Mode, Lyft says, is part of the company’s larger vision to fight climate change and build a more sustainable platform as it expands into personal mobility and bike-sharing, among other options. (Some research has shown that services such as Uber and Lyft add to urban congestion because ride-hailing vehicles spend much of their time roaming city streets awaiting a fare or driving to a passenger’s pickup location, exceeding private vehicles in their trip mileage.)
“Replacing gasoline-powered cars with EVs is a significant step forward in our efforts to fight climate change, and to improve the quality of life in our cities,” Lyft said in a blog post.
In rolling out the initiative, the company cited statistics — including a finding from the Union of Concerned Scientists — that electric vehicles produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of comparable gasoline cars in their lifetimes. Lyft says the introduction of thousands of new electric vehicles will carry benefits for both drivers and passengers.
“These efforts will provide cleaner transportation options for Lyft riders, and increase net earnings for our driver community,” the company said. “Once adopted widely, EVs hold the promise of making cities more livable by dramatically reducing air pollution.”
Critics contend, however, that electric and eventually autonomous vehicles, while reducing overall vehicle-related emissions, do not carry the same promise of reducing congestion. An alternate scenario posits that autonomous vehicles, through the relatively cheaper cost of a ride, will lure riders from more sustainable options such as public transit, causing more congestion than before.
To supplement its green-friendly initiatives, Lyft said it will introduce thousands of electric vehicles to its driver rental program, Express Drive. The program lets drivers borrow a vehicle to collect earnings on the platform, with maintenance and insurance costs covered by the company. The firm is pitching the EV offerings as a cost-saving coup for drivers, who will pay less in rental fees when they borrow an electric vehicle. Unlimited charging costs will be included in their rental rate.
“Combining lower fuel costs with affordable rental rates, we anticipate that individual drivers can save hundreds of dollars per month, and thousands of dollars per year, on fuel costs alone,” the company said.
The electric vehicles will initially be available in Seattle and Atlanta, while Green Mode will be limited to Seattle.
In response to questions, Lyft said the smaller pool of vehicles on Green Mode could result in marginally longer wait times, though the issue was expected to become less apparent as time went on. To furnish rides on Green Mode, Lyft said it will select not only from its electric vehicle fleet but also any electric or hybrid vehicles used by drivers on the platform.