Emissions benefits of electric vehicles in Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services


The use of plug-in electric vehicles in ride-hailing services is expected to have substantial emission reduction benefits. However, these benefits depend on the energy fuel mix in the grid and vehicle usage. Here we employ high-resolution data from Uber and Lyft in California to provide insights into the use of electric vehicles in ride-hailing. The growth in electric vehicle use has been rapid in the past two years and a proportionally small number of electric vehicles are already using a large share of electricity provided by the public charging infrastructure. Concerns about the ability of electric vehicles to provide the same level of service as gasoline vehicles has been overstated: we found no statistical difference between the two technologies for services provided to ride-hailing companies. Lastly, the potential environmental and emission reduction benefits are approximately three times higher for electric vehicles being used in ride-hailing compared with those of regular vehicle usage in California.

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Fig. 1: A comparison of average daily travel behaviour in California.
Fig. 2: Comparison of daily distribution of travel behaviour.
Fig. 3: Weekly charging demand of electric vehicles driving for TNCs from August 2016 to October 2018 in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Fig. 4: The amount of energy used per charging event at d.c. fast chargers for a subset of known full-time TNC drivers compared with that of all other electric vehicles in California.
Fig. 5: Histograms of the time of day that charging begins at d.c. fast chargers for TNC vehicles (left) and for other electric vehicles (right) in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
Fig. 6: The emissions associated with every observable TNC charging event from January 2017 to May 2018.
Fig. 7: Histogram of the comparative emission savings.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from EVGo, Chargepoint, Uber and Lyft, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study and so are not publicly available. The data from the CHTS are available from the Transportation Secure Data Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, at www.nrel.gov/tsdc. California grid load and emissions data are available from the California ISO Historical EMS Hourly Load Data (http://caiso.com/planning/pages/reliabilityrequirements/default.aspx#Historical) and Today’s Outlook (http://www.caiso.com/TodaysOutlook/Pages/emissions.aspx). Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code can be obtained by contacting the author directly at ajenn@ucdavis.edu.


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This study was funded entirely by a grant from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST), supported by USDOT through the University Transportation Centers programme. The authors thank the NCST and USDOT for their support of university-based research in transportation, and especially for the funding provided in support of this project.

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A.J. conducted all the analysis and manuscript writing and editing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alan Jenn.

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Supplementary information

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Data for Fig. 1: contains the distribution of daily miles travelled across different types of vehicles and services. Each row corresponds to one day of travel in the sample of data. (Sources: California Household Travel Survey, EVGo and Chargepoint charging data, PH&EV survey data, and Lyft trip data).

Source Data Fig. 2

Data for Fig. 2: contains daily trip miles of electric vehicles and gas vehicles from TNCs in 2017–2018 (Source: Lyft trip data).

Source Data Fig. 3

Data for Fig. 3: weekly total charging demand from public and DC fast chargers for TNC vehicles from 2016 to 2018 (Source: PH&EV survey data, and EVGo and Chargepoint charging data).

Source Data Fig. 4

Data for Fig. 4: daily charging demand [kWh] from public charging network providers for both ordinary electric vehicles and from TNC electric vehicles (Source: PH&EV survey data, and EVGo and Chargepoint charging data).

Source Data Fig. 5

Data for Fig. 5: count of number of daily charging events broken down by the deciminute of the day and city in California (Source: PH&EV survey data, and EVGo and Chargepoint charging data).

Source Data Fig. 6

Data for Fig. 6: upstream electricity grid emissions corresponding to each mileage event (Source: PH&EV survey data, EVGo and Chargepoint charging data, CA-ISO daily load and emissions data).

Source Data Fig. 7

Data for Fig. 7: calculated emissions savings from switching to an electric vehicle for ordinary drivers and for TNC drivers (Source: PH&EV survey data, EVGo and Chargepoint charging data, California Household Travel Survey).

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Jenn, A. Emissions benefits of electric vehicles in Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services. Nat Energy 5, 520–525 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-0632-7

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