Uber launched a new program to increase access to electric vehicles for drivers and riders, the company announced Tuesday.
The "EV Champions Initiative" offers financial incentives to some EV drivers; an in-app feature that alerts EV drivers of trips lasting 30 minutes or more to help combat fears of range anxiety—or the fear that the car's battery will die without timely access to a charging station; and from now on, Uber riders will receive a notification if they are matched with an EV driver.
Among other measures, Uber has partnered with researchers from the University of California, Davis and the non-profit Veloz to raise awareness and encourage adoption of clean transport. Participating drivers may provide riders in-car materials with basic information on the benefits of EVs and the importance of electrification, according to Adam Gromis, Uber's global lead on sustainability and environmental impact.
"We anticipate this initiative will facilitate at least 5 million Uber EV rides over the next year," Gromis wrote in a blog post.
The goal is not too far of a stretch. Roughly 4 million Uber rides were taken in EV last year in the U.S. and Canada, Curbed noted.
After successful pilots in Pittsburgh and Portland, the initiative rolled out yesterday in seven more cities—Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
The program is tailored differently for each city. For instance, Uber drivers in San Diego, San Francisco and Pittsburgh will be given a $1-per-ride bonus for using plug-in hybrids or full battery EVs, according to the Los Angeles Times. In Sacramento, Uber partnered with the local public utility district to give $1.50 back per trip, Mashable reported.
In Los Angeles, drivers will not get any financial perks for driving an EV, but Uber will notify them of the benefits of owning such a car, such as state rebates, the Southern California Edison clean fuel rebate, HOV-lane access for single occupants and city-specific rebates on installing electric chargers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"We're excited to continue working with riders, drivers, and cities around the world to facilitate access to more sustainable transportation and work towards solutions that can improve our lifestyles and our cities," Gromis said.
Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and electric vehicles have been touted as one of the keys to help clean the polluting, gas-guzzling sector. Although EV sales are growing rapidly around the world, only a small percentage of cars on the road are electric. In 2017, of the 17 million new cars sold in the U.S., only 200,000 were EVs, ArsTechnica calculated.
Increasing EV adoption will help facilitate "reliable transportation for everyone, everywhere and [make] our cities more efficient and less reliant on personal car ownership," Gromis wrote.
"Studies by the International Transport Forum, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that when shared and electric mobility are properly combined, along with automation, we can shrink the number of vehicles on the road and reduce transportation's climate footprint," he added.
Uber's move follows rival ridesharing service Lyft's announcement that it will make all of its rides carbon neutral by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions.
Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive https://t.co/4Jn6t8UOZX @ClimateReality @CleanAirMoms @greenpeaceusa @foodandwater— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524248327.0
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.