By Amruth Chinnappa
Uber, as part of its Clean Air Plan, has denounced the continued use of diesel and aims to replace all of its vehicles with electric cars and hybrid varieties by the end of 2019. This comes in the wake of a proposal put forth by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan on the establishment of Ultra Low Emission Zones across London which is expected to be implemented from September 2020. It emphasises the selective inflow of vehicles having emissions within set limits. Vehicles which do not meet this standard would incur penalties ranging from 12.5£ to 100£.
A new most polluted city?
The onset of 2017 saw London experiencing alarming levels of air pollution, with particulate matter reaching a peak of 197 micrograms per cubic metre. These figures temporarily overtook Beijing—the most polluted city in the world—with a reported value of 190 micrograms per cubic metre. This has been accorded to a number of factors including effluents from cars, bad weather conditions, and the rampant use of wood fire stoves. Casualties due to polluted air numbers about 9500 deaths a year.
Incentives to upgrade
In an effort to curb pollution, the British Government has offered incentives to the order of 5000£ for the owners of polluting cars to upgrade to hybrids. Uber has decided to match this sum by setting up a 150m£ fund to upgrade their vehicles, which currently stand at 5000£ a car. Of this, 2m£ would be paid by the company with the rest being charged to the customer at 35 pence a ride. As an additional incentive to upgrade their vehicles, it is reported that the first 1000 people to avail the service would have access to 1500£ worth of rides in Uber.
Several stages of progress
Uber is set to implement its plan in multiple stages, commencing with London in 2019 and including other cities by 2022. The company also aims to run a service solely for electric cars throughout the UK by 2025. The company’s website states that a network of rapid chargers would be placed at key points in the city. Along with the Hyundai Ioniq and the Kia Soul, It has purchased a hundred Nissan Leaf, the world’s most-sold electric car to operate in the region.
Going global, and including India?
This dedication to combating global warming and air pollution shines a pretty light on a company otherwise embroiled in a slew of lawsuits, sexual harassment charges, and internal disruptions. In its mission to counter air pollution, Uber might need to consider India which has the dubious honour of having 10 cities among 20 of the most polluted cities in the world; particle concentrations in India regularly reach upwards of 200 micrograms per cubic metres. A solution would need to include a government dedicated to the use of clean energy which is still a long way ahead.
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