Uber, the startup that has disrupted taxis everywhere with its on demand car service, plans to launch a new lower cost, and greener, option for customers this week: according to the New York Times, Uber will start offering hybrid car rides this Wednesday in San Francisco and New York for just 10 to 25 percent more than the price of a taxi.
Uber rides can currently cost up to double the price of a taxi, so that’s a big discount. Traditionally, Uber has offered only luxury town cars for its service, which is one of the reasons that customers have been willing to pay such a premium. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tells the New York Times that the new service is its first effort to appeal to the masses and move down the cost curve. The hybrid service also costs less because part of the overall price is calculated due to the gas used — the less gas consumed by a hybrid, the lower the customer’s cost can be.
But the hybrid move is also a way for Uber to be more environmentally friendly. About a year ago, I did an interview with Uber execs about whether or not the company’s service was able to reduce cars on the road, or fuel consumed, in the way that car sharing services like Zipcar or Getaround seem to be able to do. At the time I had concluded that Uber wasn’t really all that environmentally friendly in the way that some collaborative consumption services can create a more efficient use of resources.
Uber, a startup that has raised $43 million from venture capitalists, is an example of one of a handful of startups that have been using San Francisco as a test bed for alternative transportation. Others include the first generation car sharing companies Zipcar and CityCar Share, the peer-to-peer car sharing companies RelayRides and Getaround, electric scooter sharing network Scoot Networks, on demand ride sharing services SideCar and Lyft, and commuter van sharing company RidePal. The city offers a condensed space for a test bed, a community of early-adopters to test out the services, and a lack of parking infrastructure to encourage alternative transportation.
I’m actually a major Uber user, and the only thing that dissuades me from using it more regularly is the high price. So I’m personally excited to check out this service this week.