​Uber to increase fares for $260 million fund for electric cars

Electric vehicle. Image: Maurice Smith/JWN

LONDON — Uber Technologies Inc. will increase the cost of taking a ride in London by 15 pence (20 cents) per mile to create a 200 million pound (US$260 million) fund to help drivers switch to all-electric vehicles.

The announcement comes days before Uber heads to a London court to appeal a court ruling that its drivers should be entitled to benefits, including overtime and paid vacation.

In a briefing with journalists in London Tuesday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the money “would not accrue to the benefit of Uber,” but be put in an individual savings account for each driver.

Khosrowshahi was also asked his decision not to attend Saudi Arabia’s “Davos in the Desert” event. "We pulled out of the conference because we were deeply worried about the news we were reading," he said. "Having pulled out we’re now in a position to wait and understand what happened."

Uber’s new fund is part of its plan to only have EVs on London’s roads by 2025. But the availability of affordable EVs remains a challenge for the company and its all-electric ambition, Khosrowshahi said, adding that Uber is in discussions with vehicle manufacturers to ease this for its drivers.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s European boss, said an average driver working 40 hours a week over three years “could expect to save 4,500 pounds on the cost of an EV.”

He said that when a driver upgrades to an electric vehicle using that fund, “they’re completely free to work whenever and wherever,” adding that “there are no obligations” to use the vehicle for only Uber journeys.

If a driver stops working for the company before taking advantage of the fund, the money will be spent on other clean air initiatives. “We’re not going to bank it,” Khosrowshahi said.

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