Earn More with Uber – Drive an Electric Car

There’s a new way to earn a tiny bit more with Uber these days… if you live in certain select cities.

In an effort to get you to ditch your dirty, gas-guzzling vehicle and get it off the road, Uber is testing a new program to pay drivers an incentive if they drive electric vehicles.

The year-long pilot test program will provide cash incentives to drivers who use electric vehicles (EVs).  Uber says their goal is to complete 5 million trips in an EV over the next year.  It’s not quiet as ambitious as it sounds though, as they are already 80% of the way there, after having completed 4 million EV trips over the last year.  But, it’s something!

Uber’s head of sustainability, Adam Gromis told the Los Angeles Times that, “We see the writing on the wall.  Unless we can be delivering a more efficient form of mobility, we won’t be providing a good solution that cities need. That’s why we’ve gone into bikes. That’s why we’re working with transit. That’s why we’re focused on electrification.”

If you live and drive in the following cities, and you have an 100% electric vehicle, not a hybrid mind you, you can take advantage of the “premium” Uber might be paying:

  • Austin
  • Los Angeles
  • Montreal
  • Pittsburgh
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

If you don’t live and drive in one of these cities – don’t worry too much about it.  Because the incentives aren’t as appealing as one might hope.  Part of the reason Uber is paying an incentive is because it costs a lot for a driver to bring an EV out onto the road.

Bonuses and Incentives for Driving EVs

  • San Diego: Uber will pay drivers $1 extra on each trip.  However, it’s not really $1 per trip because they cap the number of trips to 20 per week!  So, it’s only $1 extra on your first 20 trips, and after that it’s nothing.  A hard working full-time driver can do 20 trips in a single day, so this is not going to be much of an incentive to real drivers.
  • San Francisco: Same as San Diego… a paltry $1 extra per trip for a maximum of $20 per week.
  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles drivers will get absolutely nothing extra per trip!  No financial incentives at all.  They will only get a promise of “educational assistance”, and it isn’t specified what that assistance will educate drivers on.  Uber has hinted that it will help educate drivers on electric vehicles!
  • Sacramento: If you’re a Sacramento EV driver, today is your lucky day!  You will receive a premium bonus of $1.50 extra for each trip!  But don’t think Uber is chipping in that much.  They’re not.  They’re only chipping in $0.25 in Sacramento.  The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD for short… and yes, they actually call it SMUD!), will pay the bulk of this bonus, by chipping in $1.25 per trip.
  • Pittsburgh: Uber has set aside a whopping $5,000 to pay as incentives to Pittsburgh drivers and they’ll be dolling it out $1 per trip, at a time.  So, that’s not going to last too long.

What Kinds of Vehicles Qualify as EVs?

As you may know, there are several different types of vehicles that are called “Electric Vehicles”.  And Uber will be paying these incentives on just two types, PHEVs (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and BEVs (Battery-electric vehicles).  They will not be paying an incentive on traditional electric vehicles such as hybrids.  So, all you Prius and Camry hybrid owners are out of luck on this one.

PHEVs – These vehicles are really mostly traditional hybrids with a battery tacked on at the end that can be charged at home by plugging the car in.  That battery however, only gives these vehicles 20-50 miles of driving before the gasoline engine kicks in.  When the gasoline engine does kick in, it works as a standard hybrid, switching back and forth between gas and electric modes as the movement of the vehicle and the action of the brakes constantly recharges the hybrid battery.

BEVs – Battery Electric Vehicles run exclusively on battery power.  The batteries are charged by plugging the car into an electrical outlet or charging station.  The Nissan LEAF and the Tesla cars fall into this category.   Most BEVs can only go 60 to 80 miles on a full charge, so Uber and Lyft drivers would really be looking at PHEVs for work.

EVs aren’t so much more expensive than regular cars that Uber and Lyft drivers couldn’t afford them (at least if they are willing to buy used), and they’re not costly to run from a gasoline or maintenance standpoint.  EVs require far less maintenance than standard vehicles.  In those respects they’re a good value for drivers.

However, the BEVs at this point are pretty much unworkable for rideshare drivers.  That’s because they can run on average for 4-6 hours of city driving.  Then they need to be parked for up to 43 hours to be fully recharged!  Recharging times vary depending on the size of the vehicle’s battery and depending on whether or not the driver has access to a fast charging station.

The Chevy Volt for instance, comes with one of the larger batteries on the market with a 60 kWh battery.  At a slow charging station, this battery takes a full 43 hours to top off!  At the fastest charging stations, it’s a zippy 8.5 hours!

So, think about that… after about 6 hours of driving you have to take a break of somewhere between 8.5 hours and 43 hours before you’re ready to go again!  That is not something a full-time driver could tolerate at all.

The PHEVs on the other hand are a fine choice for drivers.  Because once you use up your 20-50 miles of electric driving, the car will switch to hybrid mode where it will operate off of a mix of the car’s gasoline engine and its hybrid motor.  These cars can be refueled at any gas station just like a standard car.  The plug-in part is really just a bonus of about 20 miles for most models on top of the hybrid engine.

What are the Best EVs for Uber Drivers?

Here is a list of PHEVs that could suit Uber and Lyft drivers pretty well.

Make & Model Price – New

(all cars come with a $7,500 federal electric car tax credit)

EV-Only Range MPG-e (Equivalent MPG when on electric only)
2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid $39,995 33 miles 84 mpg-e
2018 Ford Fusion Energi $31,400 21 miles 97 mpg-e
2018 Chevy Volt $33,220 53 miles 106 mpg-e
2018 Honda Clarity $33,400 47 miles 110 mpg-e
2018 Kia Niro $27,900 26 miles 105 mpg-e
2018 Hyundai Ioniq $24,950 29 miles 119 mpg-e
2018 Toyota Prius Prime $27,100 25 miles 133 mpg-e

(The figures for mpg-e only apply only to the number of miles indicated in the “EV-Only Range” column.  Any miles driven over that number will get the lower mpg rating that each car’s hybrid motor allows.  Usually 42-52 mpg).