Range anxiety, Uber and Lyft style

See updates through November 4, 2021, at end of post.


So a funny thing has happened.

You might be aware that Uber and Lyft have both promised that 100 percent of their rideshare fleets will be electric vehicles by 2030.[1] Now California has called the companies on it, mandating that 90 percent of rideshare miles must be in electric vehicles by 2030. I haven’t looked at the order myself, but it looks like this includes “deadhead” miles, that is, non-revenue miles without a passenger.[2]

And the companies are waffling.[3] It seems that even with significantly lower operating costs for electric vehicles, rideshare drivers are already falling behind other drivers in adoption, in part because of purchase costs, and in part because the companies will need to actually put some money up to help drivers, whom they pay so poorly and few of whom are rich, acquire these vehicles.[4] But the companies accuse “the Air Resources Board [of] glossing over the difficulties in meeting the 2030 mandates.”[5]

Those would be the same difficulties the companies glossed over when they made their pledges in the first place.[6] But those aren’t the only difficulties.

I’m in Pennsylvania now, not California, but when I looked at all this in the Irregular Bullshit, I felt that both range and charging station availability were inadequate:[7]

Apparently unlike most Uber and Lyft drivers, I have good to excellent credit (easily excellent by Toyota’s standards), so I probably could finance a more expensive (to buy) electric car. But as an Uber/Lyft driver, I see two major problems with trying to go electric:

  1. Range: The maximum range I found for an electric car usable with Uber and Lyft was 305 miles.[8] I strongly doubt this is the usable range both because range estimate are likely exaggerated just like Environmental Protection Agency gas mileage estimates and because you have to set aside enough of a charge to get to a charging station. I’m presently averaging 168 miles per day, but 250-plus mile days are not uncommon and I had a 356-mile day less than a month ago.

    Plus, driving for Uber and Lyft isn’t my entire life. I expect to take a trip cross-country to retrieve more of my stuff from California early next year. I’m expecting to drive 600 plus miles per day (down from the 800 I targeted when I moved east a couple years ago). I really want to preserve that option, and not just for this particular trip, but if I have to take several hours per day to charge my car, because the charging rate slows as the battery reaches a full charge,[9] even with a 300-mile range, there’s no way that works.

  2. Charging: I live in an apartment. While I have a garage in my present apartment (I’m planning to move later this year), it does not have electricity and my next apartment might not have a garage at all. I would be at the mercy of high-priced charging stations. My present status with Uber would mean a 25 percent discount on EVGo’s standard rates, but only for an hour of high-speed charging time.[10] This would almost certainly not be enough and there is a risk the high speed charging might shorten battery life, particularly if it is the only charging method used.[11]

    And, um, yeah, I actually am wondering what a battery replacement does to those operating costs.

So I’m still looking at a Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid, probably later this year.[12]

There is a lot of stuff that needs to happen before Uber and Lyft drivers can go electric and while there might be a way for Uber and Lyft to help drivers with financing without further muddying the waters of the independent contractor scam that they impose on us,[13] the range question has not, no matter how much regulators, corporate executives, and other non-drivers might want to pretend, gone away.

It’s now been over a month since that 356-mile day I drove. But I drove 273 miles just a few days ago. An Environmental Protection Agency estimated range of 305 miles[14] just isn’t going to do and I’m really going to need places I can charge the car closer to home.


Update, May 22, 2021: So you know how people have been saying Uber and Lyft need to increase pay to encourage drivers to come back after quitting for the pandemic[15] and how Uber and Lyft have said they would?[16] Guess what? Uber is cutting my bonuses. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t notice.

The last time I called an Uber, because I’d left my car at the shop for routine service, I had to accept an increased fare. And it may be—it’s hard for me to tell—that they’re passing on some of that increase to drivers. But it’s pretty clear my earnings will be down from last week. Because that’s what Uber and Lyft do.[17]

But hey, we’re supposed to buy electric cars, which of course we’ll have to finance,[18] and make payments on. Any idea how that’s going to work when you keep cutting our pay, Uber?


Update, October 27, 2021: I remember once when I wasn’t driving for Uber or Lyft but was working in the gig economy in another capacity in my Toyota Prius, someone walked up to my car thinking I was their Uber. It happened because the Prius gets really good gas mileage and so Uber and Lyft drivers often drive them. Sure, the guy was drunk, but because a Prius is so often an Uber or Lyft, the mistake was understandable.

Now, Hertz and Tesla might be about to change that. And I just can’t wait to see what well-heeled Tesla owners think of this.

When news emerged that Hertz was buying 100,000 Teslas,[19] I raised an eyebrow and carried on. But it turns out half of them will be reserved for Uber drivers.[20]

My concern here has been about range[21] and so I wound up buying a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, with well over 500 miles of range. Over the last two weeks, I’ve had five days where I’ve driven in excess of 250 miles. That’d definitely be pushing the bottom end of what is here reported as a 262-353 mile range (depending on battery size).[22] I had one day, in that period, that exceeded the top end of that range.

Charging stations remain scarce around Pittsburgh, especially in the South Hills where I live, and indeed Pittsburgh will not be among the cities where the Teslas are initially offered, but Hertz will be adding charging stations to at least some of its locations.[23]


Update, October 28, 2021: Apparently that deal for Hertz to buy 100,000 Teslas and make 50,000 of them available to Uber drivers[24] includes an option to raise the latter number to 150,000, in which case Hertz would buy 200,000 Teslas. Uber drivers will not have access to Tesla’s misnamed “full self-driving package.”[25]


Update, November 3, 2021: Anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 of these Teslas that Hertz says it is purchasing are meant for Uber drivers.[26] Elon Musk criticizes the hype, denying that a deal has been made and pointing out that demand for Teslas already far outstrips his company’s ability to produce them,[27] but if Liam Denning is right, the hype is precisely what funds the purchase of these Teslas, via a stock market bubble.[28]

The rich play their games, even starting a space race to escape the planet they destroy.[29] The rest of us will be left with the resulting mess.


Update, November 4, 2021: It appears unlikely that Tesla has the capacity to fill Hertz’s order for 100,000 Model 3s by the end of 2022. The two companies are negotiating this but a delivery rate of 10,000 per year would be more normal. Hertz may also seek to acquire electric vehicles from other manufacturers.[30] How this affects its deal with Uber[31] is unclear.

  1. [1]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  2. [2]Dale Kasler, “Your Uber and Lyft driver must go electric. California’s latest climate change mandate,” Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/article251574748.html
  3. [3]Dale Kasler, “Your Uber and Lyft driver must go electric. California’s latest climate change mandate,” Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/article251574748.html
  4. [4]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Sarah Jaffe, “The battle for the future of ‘gig’ work,” Vox, May 18, 2021, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22425152/future-of-gig-work-uber-lyft-driving-prop-22; Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/16/uber-lyft-unemployment-benefits/
  5. [5]Paul Augustine, paraphrased in Dale Kasler, “Your Uber and Lyft driver must go electric. California’s latest climate change mandate,” Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/article251574748.html
  6. [6]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Why Uber and Lyft are failing to go electric,” Irregular Bullshit, May 11, 2021, https://disunitedstates.com/2021/05/11/why-uber-and-lyft-are-failing-to-go-electric/
  8. [8]Ford Motor Company, “2021 Mustang Mach-E California Route 1,” 2021, https://www.ford.com/suvs/mach-e/models/mach-e-california-route-1/
  9. [9]Pod Point, “How Long Does It Take To Charge an Electric Car?” May 28, 2020, https://pod-point.com/guides/driver/how-long-to-charge-an-electric-car
  10. [10]EVGo, “Save on EVgo Fast Charging with Uber!” 2020, https://uber.evgo.com/?uclick_id=bd6462cc-9bc1-4e84-99f2-ae8aec4dfd08
  11. [11]MYEV, “Is DC Fast Charging Bad For Your Electric Car?” n.d. https://www.myev.com/research/interesting-finds/is-dc-fast-charging-bad-for-your-electric-car
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Why Uber and Lyft are failing to go electric,” Irregular Bullshit, May 11, 2021, https://disunitedstates.com/2021/05/11/why-uber-and-lyft-are-failing-to-go-electric/
  13. [13]Nandita Bose, “Analysis: U.S. Labor Secretary’s next move on gig workers likely to include company probes – experts,” Reuters, May 7, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/us-labor-secretarys-next-move-gig-workers-likely-include-company-probes-experts-2021-05-07/; Josh Eidelson and Benjamin Penn, “Labor, Gig Companies Near Bargaining Deal in N.Y.,” Bloomberg, May 17, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-18/labor-gig-companies-are-said-to-be-near-bargaining-deal-in-n-y; Sarah Jaffe, “The battle for the future of ‘gig’ work,” Vox, May 18, 2021, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22425152/future-of-gig-work-uber-lyft-driving-prop-22; Timothy B. Lee, “Uber, Lyft stocks plunge after Biden official says drivers are employees,” Ars Technica, April 29, 2021, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/04/uber-lyft-stocks-plunge-after-biden-official-says-drivers-are-employees/; Eric Morath, “Biden Blocks Trump-Era Gig-Worker Rule,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-blocks-trump-era-gig-worker-rule-11620219168
  14. [14]Ford Motor Company, “2021 Mustang Mach-E California Route 1,” 2021, https://www.ford.com/suvs/mach-e/models/mach-e-california-route-1/
  15. [15]Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794
  16. [16]Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/
  17. [17]Sarah Jaffe, “The battle for the future of ‘gig’ work,” Vox, May 18, 2021, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22425152/future-of-gig-work-uber-lyft-driving-prop-22; Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/
  18. [18]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030; Dale Kasler, “Your Uber and Lyft driver must go electric. California’s latest climate change mandate,” Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/article251574748.html
  19. [19]Joann Muller, “How Hertz’s big Tesla deal could boost EV adoption for everyone,” Axios, October 26, 2021, https://www.axios.com/hertz-adds-tesla-electric-car-rental-fleet-b0cb31af-5551-43cc-8f3b-62eae75ba9b3.html
  20. [20]Joann Muller, “A big EV push for Uber drivers,” Axios, October 27, 2021, https://www.axios.com/a-big-ev-push-for-uber-drivers-358a720f-f1ba-4c28-9a83-1bb86061c9e4.html
  21. [21]David Benfell, “Range anxiety, Uber and Lyft style,” Not Housebroken, May 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/21/range-anxiety-uber-and-lyft-style/
  22. [22]Joann Muller, “A big EV push for Uber drivers,” Axios, October 27, 2021, https://www.axios.com/a-big-ev-push-for-uber-drivers-358a720f-f1ba-4c28-9a83-1bb86061c9e4.html
  23. [23]Joann Muller, “How Hertz’s big Tesla deal could boost EV adoption for everyone,” Axios, October 26, 2021, https://www.axios.com/hertz-adds-tesla-electric-car-rental-fleet-b0cb31af-5551-43cc-8f3b-62eae75ba9b3.html
  24. [24]Joann Muller, “A big EV push for Uber drivers,” Axios, October 27, 2021, https://www.axios.com/a-big-ev-push-for-uber-drivers-358a720f-f1ba-4c28-9a83-1bb86061c9e4.html
  25. [25]Fred Lambert, “Tesla order could double to 200,000 Model 3s to satisfy deal with Uber, says Hertz CEO,” Electrek, October 28, 2021, https://electrek.co/2021/10/28/tesla-order-double-200000-model-3s-satisfy-deal-uber-hertz-ceo/
  26. [26]Fred Lambert, “Tesla order could double to 200,000 Model 3s to satisfy deal with Uber, says Hertz CEO,” Electrek, October 28, 2021, https://electrek.co/2021/10/28/tesla-order-double-200000-model-3s-satisfy-deal-uber-hertz-ceo/; Joann Muller, “A big EV push for Uber drivers,” Axios, October 27, 2021, https://www.axios.com/a-big-ev-push-for-uber-drivers-358a720f-f1ba-4c28-9a83-1bb86061c9e4.html
  27. [27]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Elon Musk says Tesla has not signed deal with Hertz,” November 2, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-59132512
  28. [28]Liam Denning, “With Avis, Tesla’s Cars Now Buy Themselves,” Bloomberg, November 2, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-11-02/with-avis-and-hertz-tesla-s-electric-cars-now-buy-themselves
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  31. [31]Fred Lambert, “Tesla order could double to 200,000 Model 3s to satisfy deal with Uber, says Hertz CEO,” Electrek, October 28, 2021, https://electrek.co/2021/10/28/tesla-order-double-200000-model-3s-satisfy-deal-uber-hertz-ceo/; Joann Muller, “A big EV push for Uber drivers,” Axios, October 27, 2021, https://www.axios.com/a-big-ev-push-for-uber-drivers-358a720f-f1ba-4c28-9a83-1bb86061c9e4.html

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