While road traffic has reduced considerably with the pandemic, the state of California is already aiming to take the next step to emit greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the tracks of this strategy would be to impose all-electric on VTC operators, starting with the two leaders and competitors, Uber and Lyft. Why hybrid bikes? Even if they would represent only 1% of the pollution in the state of the western United States on the segment of the light vehicles, this pollution would be generated "in addition".

Because contrary to what logic might suggest, the emergence of hybrid bikes is not a factor in reducing pollution. It would rather be the reverse. This is explained by several phenomena.

The state of California released some data in 2019. One of the findings was that 39% of car trips are "deadhead miles". This term refers to the kilometers traveled by the driver to return from a race. A practice that creates de facto 50% more greenhouse gas emissions than the same average journey made by an individual in his own car. How? 'Or' What ? Because the individual does not make a round trip in the morning and one in the evening. He only makes one round trip per day, to go to work in the morning and back in the evening. Even if Uber and Lyft drivers don't go that far, they add up the kilometers the vehicle travels.

VTCs produce more pollution

On the other hand, it turns out that these vehicles also idle a lot. Between journeys, drivers often sit in their cars while waiting for the next race, with the engine and air conditioning on. Even worse, some drivers may go around in circles while waiting for customers. Finally, the extra traffic created by Uber and Lyft drivers also means that other cars are stuck on the road longer, with all the additional emissions that result.

In a state where 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from light vehicles, the authorities therefore plan to force their hand in the energy transition by encouraging VTC drivers to gradually switch to electric vehicles.

A decision that could not be taken without risking the income model of drivers in difficulty, because of the price of electric cars, still often higher than the equivalents with combustion engine, for less autonomy. The state should therefore certainly deploy an incentive policy by providing financial assistance to Uber and Lyft drivers to switch to EVs. The regulations would focus on the percentage of kilometers driven by electric vehicles (an index called eVMT). According to two preliminary strategies, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would lower the percentage of eVMT from around 5% in 2023 to 32% or 51% in 2030 – and reduce emissions by 250 grams per passenger per mile traveled.

Remember that – in addition to the tests of driverless cars carried out for years by Uber and Lyft – Tesla also has the ambition to enter the passenger transport market with its robotaxis project based on Tesla Model 3 completely autonomous. A first deployment was announced in 2020 by Elon Musk, but it seems obvious that this service will arrive much later.