California rules Uber and Lyft must switch to electric vehicles in nine years

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Left unsaid is who will pay the added cost of the mandate

California regulators have ruled that 90% of the miles driven by Uber and Lyft must be in electric vehicles by 2030.

The California Air Resources Board says the mandate is designed to curb emissions from ride-hailing trips, but the data shows it’s a tall order. In 2018, EVs accounted for less than 1% of miles traveled by rideshare drivers in the state.

Even if the shift is possible, it will come at a price. EVs cost more than gasoline-powered vehicles. The average sale price of an EV is more than $50,000, although cheaper vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 have sticker prices between $30,000 and $40,000. 

Then there’s the charging infrastructure to keep them going -- the charging systems and the electricity they supply.

That could put a heavy financial burden on drivers, many of whom say they have a hard enough time making ends meet driving their present vehicles. Labor and environmental groups, in comments to the board, say the ride-sharing companies and not the drivers must pay for it. Some drivers agree.

“The companies should pay all expenses for all the vehicles, all the time. But that’s not happening,” Nicole Moore, a Lyft driver in Los Angeles, told Energy News Network. “The cost of the fleet is on the drivers, the cost of the fuel is on the drivers, everything is on the drivers.” 

A second blow

It’s the second blow the state of California has delivered to the ridesharing industry. Previously, the state ruled -- and a state court affirmed -- that drivers must be treated and paid as employees and not independent contractors. 

The Biden administration has sided with those advocating benefits and legal protections for so-called gig workers who are classified as independent contractors. In doing so, however, it presents the ride-sharing business model with radical changes.

Both Uber and Lyft are based on apps that link independent drivers with riders. The drivers own their own vehicles, pay all the expenses, but drive as little or as much as they want.

In doing so, they meet the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) current definition of an independent contractor, which says “the general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”

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