Uber to Charge Additional 'Clean Air Fee' to Help London Drivers Pay Electric Cars

Uber wants every car operating on its London network to be electric by 2025.

Go Ultra Low Electric Vehicle on charge on a London street
Miles Willis—Getty Images for Go Ultra Low

Uber wants more of its drivers to use electric cars, and now London residents will pay to help make that happen. The ride-hailing company is adding a 15 pence ($0.19) "clean air fee," with the money going toward helping Uber drivers pay for new electric cars. Uber wants all cars running on its London network to be electric by 2025, and expects 20,000 drivers to make the switch by 2021.

Uber announced the fee and the electrification goal in October 2018 as part of its Clean Air Plan for London. At the time, Uber said the most London passengers would pay an extra 45 pence ($0.58), based on average trip distances.

All London Uber drivers are eligible to receive cash payments toward the purchase of an electric car, according to the company. But the specific amount each driver receives will be based on the number of miles they have driven for Uber. A driver working an average 40 hours per week could expect around £3,000 ($3,865) in two years, or £4,500 ($5,787) in three years, according to Uber. Once a driver buys an electric car, money from the clean air fee will go toward operating costs.

In addition to the fee, Uber previously said it would work with other companies to improve charging infrastructure. The company has also discussed a Cash for Clunkers-type incentive program aimed at passengers. In October 2018, Uber announced that the first 1,000 people to scrap a diesel car built before Euro 4 emissions standards went into effect would receive a £1,500 credit for its ride-hailing services.

It pays for Uber to be proactive about vehicle emissions. The company lost its London operator license in 2017, and has been operating on probation since June 2018. Last month Transport for London (TfL)--the city's transportation agency--ruled that Uber and for-hire vehicles would no longer be exempt from the daily congestion charge for driving into the center of London. Zero-emission vehicles will still be exempt, giving Uber an incentive to convert its fleet.

In the United States, Uber is running a yearlong pilot program to encourage drivers to use electric cars. Called the EV Champions Initiative, it's running in seven cities: Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. The program primarily focuses on driver education and lobbying, and does not include a surcharge for passengers equivalent to the one instituted in London.