Energy Saving Trust trials and testing often make the news – but more column inches are guaranteed when it's a trial involving Uber.
The global technology company operates in 66 countries and 507 cities. By connecting pedestrians to private hire vehicles through its app, Uber’s service reduces private transport use. It also provides a means of generating income to vehicle owners, with over 20,000 drivers registered in London alone.
Uber is now taking delivery of 50 electric vehicles (EVs), and a proportion of their fares in London will soon get the full electric experience. It all stemmed from a large-scale project getting to grips with charging infrastructure in the capital. Energy Saving Trust Fleet Knowledge Manager Ian Featherstone provides the details.
He said: “We're involved in doing some charge point mapping for Transport for London (TfL), to help them to decide where new rapid charge points would be best placed. This involves private hire companies, so we got in touch with Uber among many others.
“They initially helped us with some interviews and information, but then got back to us few weeks later saying they were interested in working on something a bit different. That's how the trial came about.”
But what exactly is this different approach all about? Ian explained:
“What Uber is going to do is rent EVs to 50 drivers registered on their platform, which they'll be running as if it's their existing vehicle. It's a live experiment to see if EVs are suitable for the way they work. We'll see how it goes.”
Uber are currently receiving deliveries of 30 BYD E6 and 20 Nissan Leaf vehicles, and Energy Saving Trust experts will be helping design some details of the trial.
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Once the vehicles are out and about, there's much more detail to be looked at and analysed. Ian said:
“We'll be surveying drivers over the course of the trial to look at their experience of these cars in use, and what the costs look like. We'll also be looking at client satisfaction, too. At the end of the trial we'll produce an independent report, warts and all – something that is really important to Uber.
“The report is something that the Department for Transport, Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and TfL will get to look at after publication, which should help in determining where charge points should be, and what issues have been encountered.”
Following the end of a three month research period involving EST, Uber intend for the trial to continue indefinitely. Over time, it is hoped that other drivers registered on Uber’s platform will see that EVs can work as private hire vehicles in London, potentially cutting costs in the process.
It's not the first time the transport team have worked with private hire firms. One of the first clients of the Plugged-in Fleets Initiative was eConnect Cars, who now operate a considerable amount of electric private hire vehicles in the capital.
Eight UK local government authorities have also been working with Energy Saving Trust on feasibility studies as part of the first phase of the government's £20million Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) Taxi Scheme.
With air pollution in towns and cities being a growing issue nationally and locally, and interest in alternative fuel vehicles clearly rising among taxi and private hire firms, it's important to capitalise on the momentum. Energy Saving Trust's independent experts can help. Ian added:
“We can offer detailed information about how these vehicles work, their real-world capabilities and cost-saving potential, guidance on charging infrastructure, and driver training too.”