Uber takes steps against diesel cars in London

Shutterstock  CNNMONEY

Shutterstock CNNMONEY

The new surcharge is part of Uber's larger "clean air" fund that follows on the United Kingdom government's recent efforts to limit pollution, which include a plan to end the sale of diesel or gas-powered cars by 2040.

At least one analyst questioned Uber's intentions.

The extra change will reportedly help fund a scheme whereby Uber drivers can receive up to £5,000 towards the cost of upgrading their vehicle to a hybrid or electric model.

The UK government already has plans to ban petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2040.

In the coming weeks a network of Uber-branded rapid chargers will also be installed in central London which will initially be dedicated for use by drivers of electric vehicles who use the Uber app. A similar, but yet to be confirmed amount will be added to rides elsewhere in the United Kingdom "over the next year".

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It said the first 1,000 people in London to scrap a pre-Euro 4 diesel vehicle and provide a certificate will receive £1,500 credit to spend on Uber or UberPool rides.

The move follows a flurry of auto companies, including Ford, Toyota and Nissan, announcing their own scrappage schemes in recent weeks in a bid to help drivers of older diesels trade in their cars for cleaner models - or even electric vehicles. That might appeal to passengers, but obviously it won't help drivers who still need to work while they save for a new electric or hybrid vehicle.

Those familiar with Uber might see an immediate obstacle in this plan: Uber does not own all of its fleet, so it can't simply buy new electric cars for drivers.

"Air pollution is a growing problem and we're determined to play our part in tackling it with this bold plan", said Fred Jones, Uber's Head of UK Cities.

While hybrids such as the Toyota Prius have become synonymous with the ride-hailing service, today just under half of its London UberX drivers have an electrified vehicle. WWF's climate change specialist James Beard urged more companies to follow Uber's example, but said it was now time to also focus on phasing out conventional hybrid cars in favour of only plug-in vehicles. If the company is successful in its ambitions, it could be the start of a much larger, global effort. A 2019 switchover, therefore, might be a little optimistic.

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