Uber backs Sadiq Khan’s road-charging proposals for London

Exclusive: support for pledge on congestion and pollution as company unveils plans to expand zero-emission services

Uber has swung its weight behind proposals from the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, for more road charges as it unveiled plans to expand zero-emission cab services.

The ride-hailing firm said it had more than doubled the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on its app in London to 5,000 in the past year, which will allow it to widen out its Uber Green service – where users can request only EV drivers – from the city centre to cover the whole of greater London in the spring.

Uber’s UK boss said its growth in EVs was in part down to the “strong leadership” of the mayor and said the firm “absolutely supported” Khan in planning to levy more charges to ease congestion and pollution.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said the firm had committed to being fully electric in the capital by 2025, adding: “The reason we were able to do that is because of the strong leadership the mayor has shown in electrifying London and trying to manage things like congestion and pollution.

“We’ve spent a lot of the last four years leaning in to join with the momentum the mayor has created to support our drivers.”

Uber’s London licence comes up for renewal in March. It won an 18-month extension on appeal in 2020, after Transport for London initially rejected its application due to safety concerns.

Uber introduced a clean air fee in 2018 that added 15p a mile to London journeys – now totalling a £145m pot, giving the average driver more than £3,000 in an individual savings account to redeem against the purchase of an electric car.

Heywood said the fund was at a “tipping point” from saving to spending, with only £9m so far spent but most drivers having saved enough to incentivise buying electric. About 90% of new registrations of Uber vehicles in London are now fully electric, he said.

The firm has negotiated discounts with manufacturers including Nissan, Hyundai and Tesla, as well as banks and lenders to help Uber drivers access finance. Heywood said it was on track for 10,000 EVs in London by the end of the year, more than any other global city, and had committed to be fully electric in the capital five years earlier than in its other markets.

Heywood said it owed much to the congestion charge and the push for more electric charging points, and “other tools to work out how to keep London a clean, great, low congestion city”.

Khan last month said he would seek by 2024 either to extend charges for drivers of all but the cleanest vehicles or to enlarge the ultra-low emission zone, and in the long term would explore a road pricing scheme.

Heywood said: “It’s admirable that the mayor has called for a consultation on what are the bold steps that need to be taken – we absolutely support having that conversation. It’s important that behaviours that cause pollution and congestion – which are big social costs – are disincentivised.”

He said road charging “could play a very important part in trying to move urban transport from being [private] car-dominated into one that is shared – be that Uber Pool or public transport – or much more active, biking and walking”. But he said it would be important it was designed in a way that “doesn’t worsen London’s inequalities”.


Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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