Think Energy

Uber’s Zero-Emissions Future with Matthew Price

Jan 3, 2022

Cost, inventory, and access to charging stations are major barriers when making the jump to an electric vehicle. In fact, 71% of Uber drivers across Canada said they’re interested in making the switch, but these factors are holding them back. Uber’s Matthew Price joins Dan Séguin and Rebecca Schwartz for an in-depth look at what the company is doing to help make electric vehicles more accessible to their drivers—and Canadians.

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Dan Seguin  00:06

This is thinkenergy. The podcast that helps you better understand the fast changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders, and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, and my co host Rebecca Schwartz, as we explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry. In this episode, we'll do a deep dive with Uber and discover how they plan to reduce their carbon footprint. I'm Dan Seguin.

Rebecca Schwartz  00:39

And I'm Rebecca Schwartz. Hey, Dan, have you ever noticed how quickly language changes seemingly overnight? In 2021 words, like Doom-scrolling and adulting were added to the dictionary? While, words like salty were updated with new definitions.

Dan Seguin  00:55

Wait, what salty? What the blank does salty mean now?

Rebecca Schwartz  01:00

Well, it's a term for being bitter, angry or resentful. Like, Dan, don't be salty!

Dan Seguin  01:07

I don't think so. I'm in a great mood. Cool. Anyways, what about popular phrases? The perfect example: It wasn't that long ago, we used to say, let's call a cab. Now it's, let's order an Uber. Between 2017 and 2019, nearly 4 billion rides were taken using Uber in the US and Canada alone. In fact, Uber is the largest mobility platform in the world.

Rebecca Schwartz  01:41

Well, as an avid user myself, there is no question that ride sharing companies like Uber have disrupted the transportation space, providing convenience, accessibility and affordability to riders in nearly every major city around the world. Collectively, ride sharing companies have transformed how we move and commute in our cities, to the point that some critics believe people are foregoing lower carbon forms of transportation, like public transit, biking and walking, resulting in 69% more climate pollution. And that's according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Dan Seguin  02:18

With the Canadian government's promise to be zero carbon by 2050. And transportation currently accounted for 28% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, there's another disruption and culture shift coming. Recently, Uber released its climate assessment and performance report to address how it plans to aggressively tackle climate change and the missions its business produces,

Rebecca Schwartz  02:44

adopting the mantra that with great power comes great responsibility. Uber is aiming to be an environmental leader and game changer in the mobility and ride sharing space. So here's today's big question: stating that it will be a zero emissions platform by 2040, what are some of the innovative strategies and incentives Uber is introducing to address its carbon footprint?

Dan Seguin  03:07

I'm really interested to talk about what those are in today's show with our very special guest, Matthew Price. Matthew is the general manager of Uber Canada. During Matthew's time at Uber, he helped lead its transformation in Europe, across 15 countries for some of Uber's most strategic cross functional programs. Bonjour Matthew, welcome to the show, perhaps you could start us off by telling us a bit more about yourself and your role at Uber,

Matthew Price  03:38

well, Bonjour and thank you for having me on today. So I'm Matthew price, proud Canadian sustainability enthusiast, and also the general manager of Uber Canada. I joined Uber back in 2015, based in Europe, so a front row seat to how this topic has evolved across that continent helping to implement many of Ubers early policies in terms of driving the green resolution there. And then the privilege then to come back to Canada in 2019. To take on this role, and you know, help Uber start its journey to Mission Zero in Canada. So in my role, I'm responsible for our vision and strategy, the overall performance of our business health of our team and you know, importantly, the customer experience both both riders and drivers.

Rebecca Schwartz  04:22

Thanks, Matthew. Now, can you tell us more about Uber green, and the uptake thus far by customers?

Matthew Price  04:28

Absolutely. So Uber green is our low emissions, right option, electric or hybrid. It is in 16 cities across Canada today. And as an Uber user, you can effectively select Uber green in your app. To request that hybrid or electric ride. It's $1 more than than your Uber X ride, but you're getting to experience something very different. We made a commitment at Uber to be fully emissions zero by 2030. And cities that have supportive policies and 2040 everywhere, globally. In this uber Green was one of our first actions to actually make the commitment a reality. And I will say, I do think, you know, we in ride sharing are really at the next frontier, and can have a real impact here in catalyzing this change. And let me just quickly tell you why. You know, as you might know, gas powered vehicles account for about three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions to transportation and cities today. But not all of those cars are created equal ride sharing drivers use their vehicles much more than your average car owner. And in fact, if, if a driver makes a switch to electric vehicle, you see three to four times greater emission savings compared to your average car. So if you think of the millions of drivers that we as Uber have on the streets across the world, if even a small portion of those drivers make the switch to Go Electric, that's a huge push to getting zero emission transportation off the ground. And importantly, contributing to the scale, that's going to be required to bring down the cost of vehicles and increase the availability of charging, which will we'll talk a lot more about here today.

Rebecca Schwartz  06:01

Alright, so has this resulted in an uptake for drivers to transition to electric vehicles?

Matthew Price  06:07

so drivers that come to our platform with electric vehicle, they have an opportunity to earn $1 more on any trip they take. And if it's an Uber green trip $1.50 More, which at scale is a significant increase in earnings, which, as we know, is really important when it comes to electric vehicles. Because these cars, these vehicles are still, you know, more expensive today than your your internal combustion vehicle. But at the same time, as I mentioned, there are real barriers here in terms of the cost and access to the vehicle and the availability of charging, which is why it's going to take partnership across the ecosystem to drive the uptake that we all want to see. And and I'll give you example of one of the things that we're doing there to make that happen. And I'm really proud to say we just announced yesterday, the following, which is we did a survey of drivers in Canada, 71% of them are interested in switching to electric vehicle, which is big, but you also hear from them that charging is a significant barrier. So we announced a partnership yesterday with Green Lots, which is a member of the shell group to actually create three new charging stations in Vancouver. That's one of the leading EV markets in North America for Uber. And effectively this is Ubers first exclusive partnership across North America to give drivers and delivery people access to fast charging, and access to fast charging at a discounted rate that will make it cheaper than charging at their home. So it's a pilot. It's a blueprint, but it is the type of thing that we need to replicate across Canada and globally to drive that uptake in terms of drivers transitioning to electric vehicles.

Dan Seguin  07:38

That's really interesting, Matthew. Now, Uber recently published its climate assessment and performance report. What were the biggest takeaways from the report? And was there anything that surprised you from the data?

Matthew Price  07:53

Yeah, let me let me talk you through a couple of the key insights in that report. So the first one is that the efficiency of trips with Uber actually improve as ridership grows, let me let me explain what that means, which is from 2017 to the end of 2019. Our average active much monthly ridership, it grew by 36%. But carbon intensity declined by 6%. If you look at that, that three year period, the efficiency improvement results in about a half million metric tons of avoided CO2 and 56 million gallons of gasoline conserved. Interestingly, though, the performance is even more efficient in cities. So you know, again, if you look at the 2019, the carbon intensity of rides in our top 10 metros across North America was about five and a half percent lower than Uber average. And even lower if you look at the the largest cities. But the last thing I'll say there is that we found and reported there that Uber drivers, on average, use hybrid vehicles about five and a half times more than your average car. And that speaks to what I mentioned before in terms of, you know, transitioning one Uber driver into an electric or in this case, a hybrid vehicle has an outsized impact in terms of taking, taking dirty miles and putting clean miles on our streets. I will say the other thing in there is we've referenced a number of policies that we think are going to be important to to kind of accelerate the, the revolution here towards green. Things like increasing the quality and availability of local transit, micro mobility infrastructure, we should talk a bit about that road pricing that includes all vehicles, increasing drivers access to cleaner and electric vehicles, as well as charging availability. And that all really helped inform the actions that we've taken as an organization to work towards the 2030/2040 goal.

Rebecca Schwartz  09:54

Okay, so as a global company with a global impact. I've read that you're developing some innovative strategies to be a zero emission platform by 2040. Can you tell us what are some of those strategies and how you guys plan to get there?

Matthew Price  10:10

Would love to and I touched on a few but but let me let me elaborate. So the way we think about it is, you know, commitments, one thing has to be coupled with action. And there's four key actions that that we're taking. So, you know, the first I've already spoken about, which is expanding ubergreen, you know, and that's gonna give consumers those of us that don't own electric vehicle today an opportunity to experience what it's like, which I think is going to be really important to letting people experience the magic that is an electric vehicle and kind of have that motivate their own choices moving forward. The second one is helping drivers then transition to electric vehicles, we definitely don't have as many on the streets as we need today to service the demand that's there for green. I mentioned green lights already as one way we're doing this. Another instance here, for example, is we have a partnership with General Motors to offer all eligible Uber drivers, effectively the employee discount on a Chevy bolt, which is important to bring down the upfront cost, which which we know is high. And you know, this is important, in addition to federal funding that is that is currently available. We are also investing in our multimodal network. So I mentioned this a moment ago, what that means is, it's going to take more than just offering electric vehicles to fully get to our sustainability goals, we also need to drive mode shifting, which means we need to integrate lime into our app, we've actually done this in Ottawa, where you can now get E bikes and scooters through the Uber app. And we need more partnerships with local transit authorities to give you information and help you figure out how to combine Uber with transit to get to where you need to go. And the last thing I'll say here is we need to be accountable. The Climate report we just talked about is one step in that direction. But it's really just the start, we want to bring our data to the public to the table to discuss how we do this because this is a team sport, we cannot do this alone, it is going to take private and public industry coming together and working towards what I think we all think is a common goal.

Dan Seguin  12:11

Now, Matthew, what are some of the biggest barriers and challenges you've identified in your roadmap to zero emissions?

Matthew Price  12:19

So I've touched on a couple, let me quickly reiterate those and I'll add a couple more. So I mean, when when we talk to drivers, again, 70% of what you're interested, it is the cost and the access to the vehicle, keeping in mind that the inventory is not there today for people who want the vehicles. And then it's the the access to charging. In fact, there's a study that came out of California not long ago, that shows unfortunately, one in four electric vehicle drivers switch back to a gas car because of how painful it is to charge which is a problem. So So you know, against those I mentioned earlier that, you know, part of evergreen is about people getting to experience what an electric vehicle is, today electric vehicle is is often, you know, a luxury for more wealthy households, often people kind of buying their second or third vehicle and having it be electric. But the data shows that, you know, every electric vehicle on our platform, on average touches 100 different riders. So you know, that gives a lot of people the opportunity to experience an electric ride. And the reason that's important is that scale is going to help kind of catalyze the shift, which means the scale will lead to more demand for vehicles and over time lower battery costs that bring down the cost. The scale off also offers the demand, that's going to be required to get the charging infrastructure to be installed and have the utilization required to make the economics work for those for those asset owners. So think that's really important. I mentioned earlier that it's going to take more than just private cars. So we need multimodal, we need the regulatory framework in place to roll out multimodal. And the one of the things I'll add to this, it's also about education. There's a lot of people, you know, who don't fully understand what an electric vehicle is what it's like to drive, one of the things we recently did was was rolled out an EV calculator, which means you can now go on and compare as an Uber driver, the cost of a current internal combustion versus electric vehicle through the lens of a driver, including all the subsidies and local benefits available to get a sense for what your total cost of ownership is and what it takes to get it on par. So as I've as I said here a couple times, early days on this journey, I think we know what the barriers are. We don't know how to address all of them, but we also know we're not gonna be able to do this alone.

Rebecca Schwartz  14:40

So Matthew, the integration of multimodal network is innovative, including the incorporation of public transit tickets, lime scooters, and bike rentals and even carpooling to help commuters get from point A to point B. So can you touch on these and tell us why this was the right step in Ubers evolution?

Matthew Price  15:00

Absolutely. And let me let me first talk a little bit more about transit. And I think about it like this today. Most people when they leave their house, they grab their keys, and I hop into their car. And we need to give Canadians something that for the first time is sufficiently convenient that they might consider doing something different, which needs to be more than just offering Uber X and Uber green. But it also needs to be offering new transit options, electric bike and scooter options to effectively help create, you know, a suite of solutions, that makes it more likely you're going to forego the car. And that's important because that car sits idle 95% of the time. And the other 5% is often in meeting carbon emissions with only one person in the vehicle. So the new thing we've done, just in the last few weeks, is rolled out for now just in the GTA, a product called Uber plus transit. And it's a combination of two of our existing products. Uber X and journey planning and how it works is when it convenient routes available, we will actually now help you find an Uber X to the closest transit stop, and then give you the information about how to get to your final destination using public transit. So it's you know, we find that unique ways to combine the two to get you where you want to go, sometimes faster, oftentimes cheaper. And we've integrated this with public transit across the GTA, we're watching the data very closely to see see how it performs. And definitely something we want to roll out across this country to continue to deepen the integration with with public transit, I think it's really, really important as part of the solution. And I think every everyone's you know, everyone, when going from point A to point B, you know, they're they're solving for a slightly different set of things. For some people, it's about what's the green assumption for some people, that's what's the fastest option for some people, it's what's the cheapest option. And you know, I want to I want to offer Canadians ways to solve for all of that, and ways to do it in the most environmentally conscious way.

Dan Seguin  17:00

Okay, Matthew, wondering if you could expand on key takeaways from your operations and the overall impact from this past year during shelter in place, and the golden age of food delivery?

Matthew Price  17:14

Yeah, I mean, we often get this question in terms of, you know, look, you made this, this this commitment to be zero emissions in late 2020. You know, why then? you know, when and, you know, for us COVID-19 was not a barrier, a challenge, it was actually the catalyst to do this. And the reason and we all saw this was for a period of time there, when we looked at our window, we saw our cities breathing again, for the first time, and if you look at the data, carbon emissions, were actually down for a period of time, as we were all sheltering in place. You know, as the industry leader in Canada, we knew we had an obligation, we have responsibility to take advantage of a moment like that, and figuring out how we can build back better, very much aligned to, you know, the leadership, our Canadian government, shown, very much aligned to the Paris Climate Agreement. And that really spawned the commitment around sustainability. And, and the beginning of that, of course, very focused throughout the pandemic, on helping Canadians in need move safely. In terms of helping, you know, drivers find a flexible earning opportunity that for many people was was necessary during, you know, a really big economic crisis. But, you know, we kept the sustainability aspirations front and center. And I'm really pleased, this is one of the ways that we are building back better. And, you know, in some sense of silver lining for what's been a really, really difficult time for all of us over the last 18 months.

Rebecca Schwartz  18:44

Okay, let's talk about government and industry partnerships, including Ubers advocacy for key policy reform, what are some of the changes you'd like to see in these new collaborations for the transportation sector?

Matthew Price  18:57

There's no silver bullet here. And, you know, it's going to take all parties coming together, you know, solving for our common goal as, as Canadians and what is the biggest challenge of our generation, in terms of how to make this this kind of low carbon future a reality. There's a long list of things here at the federal level, at the provincial level, at the municipal level. I'll say to that, I think are particularly important to, you know, how we catalyze a lot of what we've talked about here from using ride sharing as a way to share this. You know, one, we've talked about it, we think Uber green is really important in terms of, you know, helping people experience electric, which will help people upgrade to their own electric vehicle will help create some of the the demand required to bring down the cost to make this happen. There's ways that cities can incentivize the use of Uber green. You know, what we've seen in a number of cities, Vancouver's done it. In fact, Pearson airports done it, is they've actually reduced the per trip fee on zero emission vehicles, which makes it for you as a rider cheaper to take to take a green truck. And I do think, you know, there's there's an opportunity to do more of that, to help to to, to, you know, enable that part of what's going to be a key part of the the transition. I think the other thing is, you know, there's real opportunities for us to work as a, you know, ride sharing and taxi industry to think about how to do this in the right way. And you know, very much encouraging cities across the country to create a vehicle for higher working group, bring the right stakeholders to the table, that's going to be all levels of government, it's going to be the private transport companies, taxi companies, utilities, others, and let's talk about things like what are the barriers? And really specific barriers in that specific city? what are best practices we can bring from other jurisdictions? What's the roadmap to get there? There's no silver bullet, as I said, off the top. But, you know, it's these types of things, often with government leading, supported by organizations like ours that will get us to where we need to be.

Dan Seguin  21:10

And Matthew, does Canada's commitment to zero carbon by 2050 make collaboration easier compared to other countries?

Matthew Price  21:18

I think the answer to that is absolutely. We need that constructive relationship we talked about with local government, there's no other way to do it. And very much seen that and I'm just really pleased and proud as a Canadian to see our government leading in the space. You know, partnerships, like what I've talked about here with Greenlaw are going to be key. The way we kind of take that blueprint and expanded across the country is in part with government helping to pave the way.

Dan Seguin  21:45

Now in Canada, more than 3 million people use Uber regularly across 18 cities. I'm curious about Ottawa, what is your data telling you about our mobility habits?

Matthew Price  21:58

happy to share some data on on Ottawa, one of our early Canadian cities that we that we brought Uber to, I'll tell you the following. So most most trips in Ottawa happened during commuting times. 8am 4pm To be specific, and of course, on weekends. I can tell you that the people of Ottawa had a lot of fun on Halloween, a really big spike over Halloween weekend. And some of the top destinations in Ottawa are the Rideau center ByWard Market area, Elgin street downtown, via rail station and TD place stadium. Ottawa is a really, really important city for us. And one, you know, in particular, where we are excited to partner with all levels of government and, you know, organizations such as hydro Ottawa, to to make this green future reality.

Rebecca Schwartz  22:51

Okay, Matthew, we're coming to the end. So how about we close off with some rapid fire questions? Are you ready? What is your favorite word?

Matthew Price  23:01

Oh, hello. Maybe that's my most frequent word. If nothing else,

Rebecca Schwartz  23:08

tell us one thing you absolutely cannot live without?

Matthew Price  23:11


Rebecca Schwartz  23:13

What is something that challenges you?

Matthew Price  23:15

I would say how to integrate work and life. I love both sides of that equation so much. There's only so much time in a day and how you balance the two continues to be a real challenge for me.

Rebecca Schwartz  23:26

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Matthew Price  23:29

I would love the ability to pause time and lengthen those kinds of special moments are busy workdays to get a bit more.

Rebecca Schwartz  23:39

Now let's say you were talking to your 18 year old self, what would you tell him?

Matthew Price  23:44

Life is short. And there's no substitute for passion and doing things that you love.

Rebecca Schwartz  23:49

And lastly, what do you find most interesting in your sector right now.

Matthew Price  23:54

This one probably won't be a surprise given the conversation we just had. But I think ride sharing it's fundamentally changed how people move around our cities. I think the next frontier is for ride sharing to fundamentally catalyze this electric revolution.

Dan Seguin  24:07

Well, Matthew, we've reached the end of another episode of The think energy podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you had a lot of fun.

Matthew Price  24:17

I did indeed. It was great to meet you both. Thank you for having me on and all the good work you're doing to to help make Ottawa a green city.

Dan Seguin  24:28

Thanks for tuning in for another episode of The thinkenergy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review whereever you're listening. And to find out more about today's guest or previous episodes, visit I hope you will join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.