Uber ADDS to pollution and traffic in European cities says new study

It’s claimed that Uber and other private hire hailing apps are adding more polluting car trips to already-clogged European cities such as London and Paris according to new analysis.

In the data compiled by Euromonitor for European research and campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), it suggests the minicab operator are key contributors to air pollution and climate change and exploding the company’s sustainability claims. 

The data shows a surge in the number of Uber drivers (officially registered as private hire vehicles - PHV) in the past few years. In France, which liberalised the taxi market in 2015, the number of reported PHV drivers doubled in three years (from more than 15,000 in 2016 to 30,000 in 2019). The number of Uber drivers in London almost doubled in three years (from 25,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2018), accounting for roughly half the total PHV licence number. 

This has made Uber one of the biggest taxi services in Europe, with 3.6 million users in London in 2019 and 2.7 million users in France in 2017. According to company documents issued for its stock market launch, Uber is looking to massively increase its operations worldwide and is eyeing Europe in particular, identifying Germany, Spain and Italy as priority markets for expansion.

But whilst the number of taxi licences was historically capped, Uber has seen rapid growth.

Since Uber’s arrival in London, its biggest European market, taxi and PHV trips have increased by roughly 25% in the capital. This data strongly correlates with a 23% increase in overall CO2 emissions for the taxi and PHV sector in the UK in the same period. 

The analysis estimates that in London and Paris alone, the emissions of Uber taxi services could be as high as half a megatonne of CO2 - 515 kilotonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to adding the CO2 emissions of an extra 250,000 privately owned cars to the road. 

These kilometers have predominantly been driven by petrol and diesel cars, exacerbating the air pollution crisis in European cities. Worryingly, French government data from 2017 shows that 90% of the registered private hire vehicles, which includes Uber, were diesel cars. The high share of diesels in the PHV fleet can also be found in the traditional taxi market. It’s thought that other European cities where Uber operates have similar levels of diesels in their fleet. 

Yoann Le Petit, new mobility expert with T&E, said: “Uber’s CEO tells us they ‘do the right thing, period.’ But the reality is that Uber is part of the traffic and pollution problem, adding car trips in our cities and adding to the climate and pollution crisis. If it wants to become part of the solution Uber needs to stop using petrol and diesel cars and rapidly shift to 100% electric rides. That’s the right thing to do, full stop.”

The findings confirm that cities in Europe face the same challenges as American ones, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, where Uber and Lyft have been shown to exacerbate pollution and congestion.

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