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Will Ride-Hailing Fleets Embrace Electric Vehicles?

Uber and Lyft drivers would save thousands switching from gasoline: study

BOULDER, Colo. -- Electric vehicles (EVs) and ride-hailing are two trends shaping the transportation market that are expected to eventually converge. Just like the ubiquity of the Toyota Prius in today’s taxi fleet, experts believe EVs’ lower operating costs will prove overwhelmingly attractive to ride-hailing drivers looking to maximize their income.

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Boulder, Colo., attempted to quantify the cost savings for ride-hailing businesses such as Uber and Lyft—what the research group calls transportation network companies (TNCs)—that make the switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs. As part of its analysis, RMI examined the operating costs of a conventional vehicle with an average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon and assumed a gasoline price of $2.50. It assumed a price of electricity of about 86 cents per “eGallon,” RMI’s liquid-fuel equivalent.

Based on these assumptions, the fuel savings for a TNC driver who switched to an EV would total more than $2,500 per year.

EVs also have fewer components than a gasoline-powered vehicle and therefore require less maintenance—e.g., no oil or filter changes. RMI calculated that by switching to an EV, a full-time TNC driver could save more than $2,700 per year in maintenance and repair costs. Over five years, the savings with an EV increased to $21,000, because gasoline-powered vehicles’ upkeep costs would increase as they age. The lifetime cost savings would be more than the premium paid for purchasing an EV.

With fuel and maintenance costs combined, a TNC driver working 50 hours per week would save an average of $5,200 per year by switching to an EV, RMI determined. For TNC drivers in urban markets, the economics could prove especially compelling—and the effect of a transition in the vehicle fleet most dramatic. In San Francisco and New York, for example, TNC companies make up nearly one-fifth of local vehicle miles traveled during the week. Click here for further analysis from the study.

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