One of the most iconic symbols of New York City is its big yellow taxis. In recent years, these cabs have gotten a makeover from green cabs for outer boroughs, blue Revel Tesla cabs and even taking electrified taxis to the skies.
Taxicabs began appearing in European and American cities over a century ago, but in recent years, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have infiltrated the bustling NYC streets, turning the sacred art of hailing a cabbie into a simple phone tap.
Taxi services are enduring but as the climate crisis demands change from all directions, Uber and Lyft will have to follow suit in the electrification revolution.
Last month New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams announced that in compliance with the city’s ambitious climate plans, the rideshare companies will be required to be zero emission by 2030. As The Verge reports, as one of the world’s largest markets for ridesharing services, the decision will affect 100,000 for-hire vehicles, putting the red light on gas.
Uber and Lyft have been known to sue to block rules they don’t like, such as one that would’ve increased pay for their drivers earlier this year, and another in 2019 that would’ve limited the amount of time drivers could spend cruising busy Manhattan streets waiting for a passenger.
The latter law would’ve reduced congestion and emissions, and while the rideshare companies weren’t on the climate’s side in their 2019 effort, the two seem to be in agreement with Mayor Adams.
Both already have climate plans in place, with Uber aiming to transition thousands of vehicles through 2025, begin operating as a zero-emission platform in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. in 2030, and become 100% zero-emission globally by 2040 through a combination of electric vehicles, micromobility like e-bikes and scooters, and public transit.
Lyft also already plans to go 100% electric by 2030, and while by that year all vehicles that wear their sticker must be electric, they will not be requiring drivers to purchase one, and are instead working with their partner Express Drive to allow drivers to rent an EV.
Right now, both companies are incentivizing drivers to go electric. Lyft has a “green mode” that allows customers to request only electric or hybrid in Portland, but in just a handful of years, all 50 states will be in green mode.
Despite Uber and Lyft’s previous commitments, NYC’s new rule adds accountability, as many net zero promises from major corporations tend to fall short, and even when those commitments are promising, there’s no guarantee that companies won’t back out, as we’re currently seeing with major gas corporations.
New York City isn’t the first to adopt an all-electric rideshare rule, as the entire state of California established a similar mandate in 2021, requiring 90% of miles logged by Uber and Lyft must be electric by 2030. At the time, while the rideshare services said they supported the rule, they had reservations about who would pay for the switch, demanding that the state be flexible if they didn’t meet the targets on time.
Two years later, both companies have plans that go beyond just 90% clean mileage.
“We applaud the Mayor’s ambition for reducing emissions, an important goal we share,” Josh Gold, senior director of policy at Uber, said in a statement. “Uber has been making real progress to become the first zero-emissions mobility platform in North America, and there’s much more to do.”