A functional ride-sharing service alone could put a huge dent in carbon emissions, simply by reducing the amount of cars on the road. But Lyft wants to take things one step further, today announcing plans to power all of its electric autonomous ride-share vehicles with renewable energy, starting with the first to roll into action in Boston within the coming months.
The heart of the problem Lyft is trying to solve is the underutilization of the average car, which it claims is used only four percent of the time and otherwise sits idly in the driveway. If you are trying to recoup the cost of an electric vehicle through fuel savings, the company says you will have more than 10 years to wait.
It claims its vehicles, by comparison, will be roaming the streets more than 50 percent of the time. The costs can therefore be recovered in just a few years, driving the adoption of electric vehicles while helping to phase out gasoline-powered cars and applying the brakes to global warming.
The company has this week detailed a few rather lofty goals that really drive home its commitment to helping the environment, starting with a pledge to power its fleet of autonomous electric vehicles with 100 percent renewable energy. By 2025, it says its platform will be providing at least one billion rides a year and by that point, it will be reducing C02 emissions for the US transportation sector by at least 5 million tons per year.
These sure are commendable goals, but it does sound like a huge undertaking. Lyft hasn't outlined a plan to achieve these objectives, but as a point of reference, Tesla's Supercharger network was unveiled in 2012 and is still largely powered by fossil fuels.
CEO Elon Musk responded to this recently by stating that over time, almost all Supercharger stations will be converted to solar/battery power and disconnected from the grid. That's not to say it's impossible by any means – Lyft could well be the apples to Tesla's oranges – but it does demonstrate that powering significant numbers of electric vehicles with renewable energy is a tall order, even for a guy that has made a habit of recycling rockets.
With that said, Lyft recently partnered with autonomous tech company nuTonomy, and will start a self-driving pilot in Boston sometime in the coming months. It says that the vehicles used in these trials will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, so perhaps it's already got some clean energy tricks up its sleeve. Either way, the momentum these types of commitments bring can only be a good thing.