Europe must lead on electrifying urban mobility

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Uber has pledged to go zero-emission by 2040. [Photo: Worawee Meepian / Shutterstock]

Without bold and fast action to transform the way we move around in our cities, we will be unable to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and air pollution, warn Anabel Diaz and William Todts, as ride-hailing firm Uber announces a new global zero-emission goal.

Anabel Diaz is Regional General Manager, EMEA,  for Uber and William Todts is Executive Director of clean mobility group Transport & Environment (T&E). This op-ed is published exclusively on EURACTIV.

The pressing need to cut harmful transport emissions is one of the most urgent challenges of our era. It is both an environmental goal and a moral imperative.

If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis it is the unique opportunity we now have to drive a green recovery. As European cities look for new solutions to clean up urban transport, shared, electric mobility presents itself as a sustainable fix to these problems.

Policymakers across Europe are alive to this challenge and are setting the foundations for ambitious change across the European economy. The EU Commission’s Green Deal notes that “transport should become drastically less polluting, especially in cities”.

Advancing the electrification of high-kilometre commercial vehicles on mobility platforms like Uber is critical, as it will deliver significant environmental benefits because these vehicles are driven 4-5 times more. As the largest mobility platform in the world, Uber has a responsibility to address this issue.

Globally, Uber has today (8 September) announced a commitment to become a zero-emission mobility platform by 2040, meaning that 100% of rides will be in zero-emission vehicles, on public transit, and via micro-mobility.

This is good news, but Europe must get there faster.

Uber has also announced that 50% of kilometres driven on the app in aggregate across seven European capitals (Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid and Paris) will be in zero-emission vehicles by 2025. This speedy transition will benefit drivers, citizens and the climate.

To deliver this commitment, cities, NGOs, ride-hailing companies, car makers and charging operators should all work together to create the right conditions. In particular, high kilometre commercial vehicle drivers need access to affordable vehicles and reliable charging infrastructure to encourage them to switch to a zero-emission vehicle.

European regulators must do their share to help bring affordable and competitive supply of electric cars by increasing the 2025/2030 car CO2 emission rules, which are up for review next year.

Industry also has a key role to play, and the collaborations Uber has announced today with Renault-Nissan, EDF and BP will also reduce the cost of switching for drivers.

European cities should also support this transformation. As part of their efforts to change our urban environments with new pop-up bike lanes and cycle-only corridors, they must also provide easy access to electric charging, at home, at work and wherever people park.

If all sides play their part, Uber and T&E believe that ride-hailing could be 100% electrified in any major European city within five years. This could act as a catalyst for change, driving a broader transition to zero-emission vehicles and dramatically cutting emissions in cities across Europe.

It will reduce pollution to create cleaner, healthier, more liveable cities.

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