The rideshare company announced the new program — the first in the U.S. — today.
Uber has similar pilot projects in London, Johannesburg, Paris, Madrid and Lisbon.
Drive Oregon is partnering with Uber for the project.
Bryce Bennett, Uber’s Oregon GM, says the company selected Portland because the city and state are “national leaders in the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles.”
“Last year the legislature had the foresight to pass one of the strongest clean energy laws in the nation, which empowers utilities to increase and improve the infrastructure needed to grow the electric car market,” he says in a press release. “That legislation, and the plans now before the Oregon Public Utility Commissioner, are the catalyst for what we’re starting.”
The program’s goal is to increase access to electric mobility over the next two years. At the moment, about 100 of the 6,000 Uber drivers in Portland drive EVs. Uber wants to add a few hundred, or more, to that number. Electric vehicles will be purchased by Xchange Leasing and made available to drivers, according to Uber communications manager Nathan Hambley.
The EV launch comes at a time when Uber is under fire on multiple fronts. The company is facing numerous complaints about workplace culture, and CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on video berating a driver.
Uber is also under investigation in Portland for its use of “Greyball,” a technology that helped Uber evade authorities when it was operating illegally.
Uber isn’t the first to bring electric vehicle ridesharing to Portland. Car2go first launched EVs in its fleet back in 2012, but phased them out due to a lack of charging stations.
ReachNow added 30 electric BMW i3’s to its fleet last December for users to rent.
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Jeff Allen, Executive Director of Drive Oregon, says this public/private partnership is exactly what Portland needs.
“By leveraging the strengths and assets of all our partners, we will quickly spark a major boost in electric cars on Portland’s streets, clean up our air, and expose thousands more people to this great technology,” Allen says. “This partnership will help further position the region as the epicenter for innovation in electric mobility.”
Drive Oregon will also manage and train EV Ambassadors, a role which Uber describes as educating riders about the environmental and economic benefits of electric vehicles.
The Black Parent Initiative, Arcimoto and Cynergy E-Bikes are also partnering with Uber for the program.
Cynergy will provide 20 e-bikes for UberEATS delivery drivers to use in the next few months. UberEATS — Uber’s response to services like GrubHub and Seamless — only launched last November.