ICYMI, ride-hailing biggie Lyft announced last week that it plans to electrify every single car offering services on its platform by 2030, including both those that Lyft owns and rents to drivers and ones that its drivers own. It's a colossal task for an 8-year-old company that says it won't be profitable until at least 2021 and plans to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in costs this year.
Why will it be so hard? Because the vast majority of cars on the Lyft platform are owned by drivers, many of which drive for less than 10 hours a week for Lyft. So essentially Lyft has to act as a catalyst — using policy, economic and industry tools — to spur the broader transportation ecosystem to more rapidly adopt zero-emission vehicles.
In particular, the unprecedented move will require an unprecedented leap forward in policies that can make electric vehicles affordable and beneficial for Lyft drivers within the next 10 years. On a media call last week, Elizabeth Sturcken, managing director at the Environmental Defense Fund, put it this way: "Lyft is committed to using the most powerful tool we have to fight climate change: policy influence."
One of Lyft's strategies will be to work with regulators across city, regional, state and even federal levels to create an environment that reduces the upfront costs of EVs and helps drivers save money fueling them compared to gasoline cars. Lyft already has tested out creating this kind of environment in a couple of microcosms in the United States.
Lyft Director of Sustainability Sam Arons pointed to Lyft's policy work in Colorado during the Political Climate podcast last week. Arons said Lyft was able to work with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to modify the state's law around Colorado's electric vehicle tax credit and make it available to ride-hailing fleets.
As a result of the changes in the Colorado law, Lyft was able to roll out what it says is the largest electric ride-hailing deployment in the U.S. — with 200 EVs — in the Denver area of Colorado. "We want to replicate that with other policymakers in the country," said Arons on the podcast.
Lyft is committed to using the most powerful tool we have to fight climate change: policy influence.
Lyft also mentions in its white paper that the company has been working closely on policies such as California's new law creating a Clean Miles Standard, under which ride-hailing companies soon must submit plans to introduce targets for zero-emission vehicles. Lyft says it's been working with partners on similar legislation in other places such as Washington state.
In the same vein, Lyft also has been advocating for more states to adopt laws such as California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). That's California's mostly-loved law that generates LCFS credits for companies providing low carbon fuel, whether that's from electricity, renewable diesel or renewable natural gas. Revenue from selling LCFS credits can be used to support low carbon projects in California such as EV rebates for buyers, community-based EV programs and deployment of high-speed charging stations.
At the federal level, Lyft plans to try to help maintain and expand the federal zero-emission vehicle tax credits, which can be as large as $7,500 but are being lowered and phased out for some automakers that have reached the limits, such as Tesla.
Beyond policy influencing, Lyft also will need to work closely with automakers to reduce EV prices and optimize new electric vehicles for ride-hailing drivers. Lyft plans to start this work by leveraging its bulk purchasing power when buying EVs for its Express Drive program, which rents cars to Lyft drivers across the country.
In addition to automakers, Lyft will need to collaborate with EV infrastructure providers and utilities to get more EV chargers deployed and to create better rate designs for EV charging.
There's a whole lot of work to do, and it'll take the entire ecosystem to get Lyft where it wants to go. Good luck, and we'll be following along with the ride-hailing company as it leads the industry toward electrification.