Uber secures 500 electric cars for drivers

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Ride-sharing giant Uber will offer its Australian drivers access to 500 electric vehicles in a bid to kickstart the country’s transition to greener transport.

The tech firm partnered with Sydney finance company Splend to secure 500 Polestar 2 electric cars and offer discounted loans on the high-end vehicles to drivers in NSW.

The announcement is part of Uber’s commitment to become a zero-emission platform by 2040 and launch a dedicated electric car service, Comfort Electric, to users in 2023.

It also comes amid record-breaking sales for electric cars in Australia despite ongoing supply constraints.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the electric car deal was designed to accelerate the company’s transition to more environmentally friendly transport.

“Ultimately, we think we have to play our part in kickstarting EV adoption on the road,” Mr Khosrowshahi told AAP.

“Every on-demand driver who makes the shift to EV has a three to four times higher impact on the environment because they drive more.

“We want to be a leader, we want to innovate here, and we’re hoping this is the long and necessary journey to electric vehicles here and electric transportation.”

Mr Khosrowshahi said he recognised drivers faced significant barriers to buying electric vehicles, including high entry prices.

“The unfortunate reality is that today electric cars are a luxury item and we collectively have to make investments to turn them from a luxury item into an everyday item,” he said.

“It’s really the beginning of the journey.”

The Polestar 2 vehicles, which retail for $66,940 on road, will be offered to Uber drivers in NSW through Splend’s rent-to-own financing.

Uber will halve its service fees up to $6000 annually for drivers who take up electric vehicles, and finance firm Splend will offer discounted weekly payments and home-charging solutions.

Splend founder and chief executive Chris King said demand for electric vehicles had continued to climb among ride-share drivers, “especially as petrol prices continue to climb past the $2 per litre mark”.

“Petrol significantly adds to the running costs for drivers. With an EV they can save around $200 a week as a full-timer, which results in higher take-home earnings,” Mr King said.

“The main barriers we tend to see are the availability of EVs, the cost of finance, the cost of insuring the car, and the misconception of range.”

Mr King said Polestar 2 vehicles had a range of 478km to 550km per charge, while ride-share drivers typically covered “200km per day for a full-timer”.

Splend received $1.8 million in funding from the NSW government’s Drive Electric initiative in July, helping the company secure the largest fleet of Polestar EVs in Australia.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the partnership between Splend and Uber was encouraging and could bring “more EVs to city streets, and faster”.

Demand for electric cars is rising in Australia, with recent sales figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showing more than 7200 EVs were sold in September, outnumbering sales of all hybrid vehicles.

Australians have purchased more than 21,700 electric vehicles in 2022.

 

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)

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