In Seattle, if you open up the Lyft app to call a ride, you’ll see the typical options: regular Lyft, Shared, Lux, and XL. But you’ll also see a new option: Green Mode. When you select this, you guarantee that the car coming to pick you up will be either fully electric or hybrid.
“This is the first time we’re meaningfully scaling electric vehicles into our fleet,” says Lyft COO Jon McNeill. This new initiative, which will soon roll out to other cities, came out of the market research the company does every quarter. “We take our entire management team out into the field–in this case we were in the Pacific Northwest–and the most requested feature from both passengers and drivers was this ‘Green Mode,'” McNeill says. From the Lyft side, he says, Green Mode fits with the company’s sustainability aims; last year, Lyft announced that it will offset the carbon emissions from all of its rides. The Green Mode initiative is part of Lyft’s declared goal of delivering 1 billion rides per year by EV by 2025.
For drivers, switching to electric reduces fuel costs by as much as 50% and increases their take-home pay (which has been an extra-contentious issue for the company recently). McNeill spoke to one driver who has already been renting an EV through Express Drive, and who said that he saves $6,000 per year in fuel costs by doing so.
To support the rollout of Green Mode, Lyft is offering drivers access to EVs through its Express Drive platform, on which drivers can rent vehicles to use while driving for Lyft. The Express Drive EV rental program will be available to drivers in Seattle, but also Atlanta, to experiment with launching in a different market. As part of this launch, drivers will also get free unlimited charging, which Lyft says will be powered by 100% renewable energy.
Lyft is hoping that Green Mode will spur the adoption of electric vehicles among drivers, and create an avenue to channel customer demand for cleaner transportation options. The company has made inroads into non-car transit options through acquiring the bike-share company Motivate last year, as well as launching scooters and displaying public transit data on the app, but it’s still predominantly a car-share platform.
In Seattle, McNeill says, Lyft already has a relatively high share of electric vehicles in its fleet (Lyft would not disclose exactly how many), so it made sense to launch the Green Mode pilot there first. But Lyft also wanted to improve access to EVs through its Express Drive program in a place like Atlanta, where EV uptake has not been as swift. “We wanted to see the dynamic of pulling electric vehicles into the fleet through driver and passenger demand,” McNeill says. Both cities, he adds, have fairly robust charging infrastructure, but Lyft will be pushing EV charging companies to build out more in other markets as Green Mode expands.