Uber wants to roll out EVs in Africa, but it needs the government

As part of its efforts to be a zero-emission company by 2040, Uber is engaging with African governments to develop policies that will enable the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Uber wants to roll out EVs in Africa, but it needs the government
Uber Green is a low-emission ride option that connects riders with hybrid and electric vehicles

Three years ago, Uber disclosed its plan to be a zero-emission platform by 2040, a commitment that is worth about $800 million, according to Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO.

Recently, the ride-hailing company's chief business development officer, Jennifer Vescio, said the company could meet that target, but it would be dependent upon partners including policymakers and car manufacturers adopting electric-vehicle technology relatively quickly.

In Africa, Uber wants to replicate its commitment that has been established in Dubai, that is, ensuring that 25% of kilometres driven by its cars are electric by 2030, starting with South Africa. According to a recent report released as part of the South Africa Just Transition and Climate Pathways study, the country would have to ban the sale of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035 and shift at least 15% of road traffic to rail if it is to meet its globally committed climate goals.

Frans Hiemstra, GM for Uber in the Middle East and Africa region said that the company is working to draw governments' attention to the importance of developing a clear policy framework that will help better prepare the continent for the electrification of transport.

"Government lays the foundation of the country moving in a more sustainable environment, but the government cannot do that alone," Hiemstra says. "They need companies like Uber to be able to execute their sustainable vision. The challenge with electric vehicles today is [mainly] affordability–total cost of ownership. Private companies and governments have the opportunity to influence this by trying to influence policy-makers to introduce the right incentives, and trying to influence OEMs to provide more affordable vehicle components."

According to the 2022 AutoTrader Mid-Year Industry Report, although there is demand for EVs from South African customers, the high prices and range anxiety due to the lack of charging infrastructure are among the biggest hurdles to increased adoption.

None of the over one billion trips recorded by Uber in Africa was done via an electric vehicle. The ride-hailing company made its debut arrival in Africa with South Africa as its first market in 2013. Currently, Uber is present in Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ivory Coast.

"We have to use the partnerships that private companies have with governments to be able to influence and push countries forward to a more sustainable future," Hiemstra stated. "A sustainable future is not necessarily just about EVs; it can include a broader range of multi-modal transport. And we have taken a few steps to launch these types of vehicles across various markets through Uber Green."

Uber Green, a low-emission ride option that connects riders with hybrid and electric vehicles has already been rolled out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Middle East and North Africa, and in certain parts of Canada, Europe and the US, he added.

Uber is part of a collective called Go Green Africa, which is lobbying the government to implement favourable policies that would encourage the use of EVs in SA. Hiemstra says engagements with Western Cape officials in that regard have been progressive.

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