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Uber Picks Portland For First U.S. Electric Vehicle Program

Uber has kicked off a new program to support the use of electric vehicles among its drivers, choosing Portland for the first U.S. program, which the company has previously rolled out in Johannesburg, London, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris.


According to Uber's Oregon general manager, Bryce Bennett, Portland got the nod because Oregon's a leader in the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles.

“Last year the legislature had the foresight to pass one of the strongest clean energy laws in the nation, which empowers utilities to increase and improve the infrastructure needed to grow the electric car market,” Bennett said. “That legislation, and the plans now before the Oregon Public Utility Commissioner, are the catalyst for what we’re starting.”

The program has a number of moving parts. It involves efforts by Uber subsidiary Xchange Leasing, which helps drivers lease EVs, as well as a partnership with Cynergy E-Bike to obtain electric bikes for UberEATS couriers. Additional partnerships will be the EV manufacturer Arcimoto, which is based in Eugene, and Portland General Electric, for EV charging stations.

The company also is working with Drive Oregon, a nonprofit working to increase the number of EVs in the state, and Black Parent Initiative, which counts increasing EV access to historically underserved communities among its goals. 


The overall goal is to incentivize drivers to switch to EVs. According to Uber, about 100 of its 6,000 drivers in greater Portland use EVs. At 1.6%, that might not seem like many, but the percentage is already higher than in the population at large. The company said it wants to have 10% of its local drivers using EVs by 2019. 

Uber has had a checkered history in Portland. The New York Times reported in March that Uber used software called Greyball to thwart regulators in 2014 when it was operating illegally in Portland, among other places. Portland legalized the ride-hailing service the next year, and Uber claims it has not used Greyball in Portland since then.

After the Greyball story broke, officials in Portland called for an investigation into the practice. Complicating matters in Portland is House Bill 3246, which is being considered in Salem. The measure would put Uber and Lyft under state oversight, superseding the regulations set up in Portland and elsewhere.