October 24, 2018 11:38 CET
London — Uber will increase the cost of taking a ride in London by 15 pence (20 cents) per mile to create a 200 million-pound ($260 million) fund to help drivers switch to electric vehicles.
The announcement comes days before Uber heads to a London court to appeal a court ruling that its drivers should be entitled to benefits, including overtime and paid vacation.
In a briefing with journalists in London Tuesday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the money “would not accrue to the benefit of Uber,” but be put in individual savings account for each driver.
Uber’s new fund is part of its plan to only have EVs on London’s roads by 2025. But the availability of affordable EVs remains a challenge for the company and its all-electric ambition, Khosrowshahi said, adding that Uber is in discussions with manufacturers to provide EVs, and is also working with charging companies such as BP’s Chargemaster.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s European boss, said an average driver working 40 hours a week over three years “could expect to save 4,500 pounds on the cost of an EV.”
He said that when a driver upgrades to an EV using that fund, “they are completely free to work whenever and wherever,” adding that “there are no obligations” to use the vehicle for only Uber journeys.
If a driver stops working for the company before taking advantage of the fund, the money will be spent on other clean air initiatives. “We are not going to bank it,” Khosrowshahi said.
Uber is set to appeal a court ruling that its drivers should be entitled to benefits, including overtime and paid vacation. The court is expected to hear Uber’s arguments on Tuesday.
Top UK judges ruled in June that London-based Pimlico Plumbers should have treated one of its tradesmen as a “worker,” giving him the right to vacation pay and to sue the company. And in May, taxi service Addison Lee lost an appeal over whether drivers were independent contractors or employees with rights to benefits.
“I think it’s a concern, sure. We have to take these things seriously,” said Khosrowshahi. “But I think how our platform is structured is quite different to Pimlico Plumbers, and I hope that comes out in court appropriately.”
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