First Electric Vehicle Pilot On Uber South Africa

In January 2016, EVSA trialled the first electric vehicle on the Uber platform in South Africa. We ran the experiment for 2 weeks with the aim of answering a few vital questions which may pave the way for the adoption of EVs in the fleets of ride-sharing services in South Africa.

The vehicle we used was a BMW i3 fitted with a range-extender generator. The vehicle was placed on UberBlack, with users getting the car at random.

Ordering UberGREEN

Ordering the first UberGREEN BMW i3.

We set out to find out the following from riders:

  • Would users pay a premium for an UberGreen product and what is this price point?

  • Is it suited to UberX, UberBlack or a standalone product?

  • Which city in South Africa is it best suited to?

  • What is a rider’s impression of an electric vehicle?

Likewise, we needed to test the challenges of operating a vehicle that has range limitations in a high-mileage ride-sharing application.

  • Is there significant downtime in a standard EV due to charging?

  • Would a range-extended electric vehicle such as the BMW i3 REX be needed?

  • What financial model may make the widespread adoption of EVs on ride-sharing platforms a reality?

“The UberGREEN trial that we ran with the BMW i3 suggests that consumers are willing to pay a premium in the near future whilst the vehicles are interesting and uncommon, and while they are associated with a more sustainable product.”

Ordering UberGREEN

The first UberGREEN driver during the trial in January.

The feedback after running the car for 2 weeks on UberBlack was overwhelmingly positive. The vast majority of riders thought that the BMW i3 was an upgrade from the default UberBlack sedan they were expecting. Surprisingly, all riders thought it was of a level above what they would expect to see on UberX.

Best Suited

When asked what they would pay, most suggested that they would be willing to pay something in the region of UberBlack at ZAR13.00 per km at the time. Our analysis suggested that the break-even point for operating the car would require a cost of ZAR10.00 per km to match the business model of operating an conventional sedan on UberX.

Rate

Only one rider had been in an electric vehicle before, and the novelty of this first ride was reflected in the experience had by the riders.

Expectations

Electric vehicles will be the dominant type of car used on ride-sharing platforms within the next 5 years. Products such as UberGREEN will help incentivise the development of infrastructure to support EV fleets. Our trial that we ran with the BMW i3 suggests that consumers are willing to pay a premium in the near future whilst the vehicles are interesting and uncommon, and while they are associated with a more sustainable product.

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