Uber Helps Auto Makers Sell Electric Cars In South African Pilot Project

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Uber has partnered with BMW and Nissan in South Africa to make electric cars available to Uber drivers and riders, offering much-need exposure to the new technology for South African auto dealers, manufacturers and consumers.

South African users of Uber’s ride-hailing app will have a new, environmentally friendly option as of May 9, when, for a limited time, riders in Johannesburg can choose UberGREEN when hailing a ride on their smartphone apps and try out an electric car ride as part of a pilot project.

UberGreen isn’t entirely new. Uber has partnered before with auto dealers. Uber users in various cities around the world have had the option to ride green on a limited basis before.

An UberGREEN pilot project is underway in Portugal for three months from March 7 to June 6 for riders in Lisbon and in Porto, according to UberNewsroom.

In May 2015, Uber partnered with the Guangzhou Automobile company in the Chinese city of Wuhan to offer 10 hybrid electric cars in an experiment to see if commuters like them. “Once it rolls out to consumers … it’ll be called UberGREEN,” TechInAsia reported.

In observation of Earth Day, Uber Boston allowed users to choose hybrid and electric cars when hailing a ride between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on April 22, 2016, Bostinno reported.

“Uber’s been known to offer promotional gimmicks like this before with a lacking number of viable vehicles,” Bostinno reported. “When delivering ice cream and even flu shots, for example, the ‘no cars available’ message was frequent.”

In South Africa, transportation accounts for 13 percent of carbon emissions, ITNewsAfrica reported. Energy demand for transportation is expected to grow by 2.5 percent per year through 2020, and South Africa has been challenged to reduce emissions.

The UberGREEN pilot project is taking place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m May 9 to June 3 in Johannesburg. Uber riders can request a BMW i3 or Nissan LEAF electric vehicle operated by Uber driver partners.

UberGREEN fares will be charged at UberX prices — the cheapest ride option available on the Internet ride-sharing service, according to Fin24.

Partnerships like the one with Uber are essential to expose more consumers to electric vehicles and increase sales, said Tim Abbott, managing director of BMW Group South Africa, ITNewsAfrica reported.

“We are excited that other like-minded auto companies are joining us in the electric vehicle revolution towards a sustainable future” said Dudu Mwelase, general manager of corporate affairs for Nissan South Africa.

BMW has sold about 50,000 BMW i3s internationally since their launch at the end of 2013. The BMW i3 was launched in South Africa in March 2015 and 124 vehicles have been sold so far, according to ITNewsAfrica. The Nissan LEAF has sold about 200,000 vehicles globally, resulting in 1 billion emission-free kilometers of driving. The Nissan LEAF won the title of World Car of the Year in 2010, and Nissan said it’s the first fully electric vehicle that went to market.

South African cities have been some of the fastest growing Uber markets in the world, Uber’s Cape Town General Manager Anthony le Roux told Fin24 in an earlier report. “When we overlayed where we are now with where other cities were at this stage of their Uber history, we know that we’re only just really scratching the surface and the opportunity is massive going forward.”

Uber chooses cities to launch where the population is open to testing and adopting new technologies, AFKInsider reported.

“In a world where mobility adds to the carbon emission problem, we at Uber are eager to provide alternate options,” said Alon Lits, Uber general manager for sub-Saharan Africa.