Today, ride-hailing service Lyft announced in a blog post that it will transition every vehicle on its platform to 100% electric operation by 2030. This applies to all cars that use any Lyft platform — including “Express Drive” rental cars, autonomous vehicles, and drivers’ personal cars.
It also announced an end to its carbon-neutral ride program, which will result in a significant increase in Lyft’s emissions over the next decade before reaching all-electric.
Lyft made the case for its change by pointing out that transportation is responsible for more emissions than any other sector in the US. Electrifying transportation is a huge step toward reducing the environmental impact of the transportation sector and tackling climate change.
The company also pointed out that electric vehicles result in lower operating expenses (to the tune of $10 billion total for Lyft’s drivers), and health benefits such as reduced smog and lung disease from atmospheric pollutants.
To reach 100% electric vehicles, Lyft says it plans to engage with government officials and lobby for cleaner transportation. Lyft touts success stories in deployments of hundreds of electric vehicles in Seattle, Atlanta, and Denver, and engagement with policymakers in Colorado on EV tax credits. It is also working with the Environmental Defense Fund and other partners to push through this initiative.
Lyft will transition its “Express Drive” rental cars to electric first, as those cars are owned by the company. Driver-owned vehicles will lag behind Lyft-owned vehicles, as drivers often own cars that have been in service for several years. But Lyft’s plan aims to ensure that drivers will have the option to buy an electric vehicle with lower total cost of ownership compared to gasoline vehicles by 2026 at the latest, in preparation for kicking all the gassers off the platform in 2030.
Electric is important for ride-hailing, as a study has shown that ride-hailing trips result in 69% more climate pollution than the rides they replace, due largely to the additional distance driven by drivers between trips (“deadheading”) and because ride-hailing trips sometimes replace less-polluting modes of transport like walking and biking. That same study showed that electrifying ride-hailing services would reduce emissions by more than half, even accounting for deadheading.
The study also called for ride-hailing services to become “pooled,” where multiple riders going in the same direction will get picked up by the same car, further reducing emissions. Lyft has not yet committed to pooling all their rides, but does have a “shared ride” option.
Lyft has historically led over its competitors in terms of environmental commitments. While its main competitor, Uber, has engaged in some partnerships to electrify their service, its commitment has not been nearly as strong as Lyft. In 2018, Lyft committed to carbon neutrality across its fleet, and in 2019, it launched a “green mode” allowing riders to request electric/hybrid cars in Seattle and Portland. Uber did not make the same carbon neutral commitment.
But today’s announcement also represents a step back from Lyft’s previous carbon-neutral pledge. Since 2018, Lyft has purchased carbon offsets to balance out the emissions from rides on their platform. Today, it cancelled that program. Lyft states:
So we’re ending our carbon offsets program to allow us to focus our efforts on direct decarbonization through the switch to EVs. While this means net emissions from cars used on the Lyft platform may increase in the short term, shifting to 100% EVs will lead to dramatically lower emissions over the long term.
The language here is a little weasely, as Lyft states that emissions “may” increase over the “short term,” when just last year they posted a celebratory blog post touting how big their first year of carbon neutrality had been. Lyft said their commitment had saved as much carbon as 2.4 million acres of trees in just one year.
So in the next 10 years of rides now without carbon offsets, Lyft’s emissions would be the equivalent of more than 10 million acres of trees (assuming they do reach zero emissions in 2030 with a roughly linear decrease).
Click through to see Lyft’s full “Path to Zero Emissions plan.”
This is a good move and roughly in line with the early edge of many other “zero emissions” pledges, so Lyft deserves credit for that.
But the news about ending their carbon-offset program is disappointing. Given that the one sentence mentioning it was hidden in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a long blog post, we can only deduce that Lyft wanted to bury that part of the story. Which is a shame, because Lyft has been better on environment, but this is definitely one current step backwards in exchange for a future step forwards.
So as we do with most news – we welcome the good news, and continue to push everyone to do a little bit better.
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