California Clean Miles Standard Impacts Uber, Lyft

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the Clean Miles Standard, which will require rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2030. (Lyft)

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the Clean Miles Standard, a program specifically intended to reduce carbon emissions from transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. It is the first of its kind in the nation and aims to transition ride-hailing fleets to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030. Passage of this standard follows California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Zero Emission Vehicle Executive Order, which calls for statewide carbon neutrality by 2045.

Reportedly, the program focuses on three areas to help transportation network companies (TNCs) reach these goals:

  1. Decreasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
  2. Increasing electric vehicle use
  3. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

All TNCs operating in California must submit two-year plans in January 2022, a year ahead of compliance, which begins in 2023. California says 1% of all greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles in the state come from TNCs.

Studies indicate that the proliferation of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft has lured passengers away from greener transportation solutions such as mass transit. A recent survey of California residents reveals that without a ride-hailing service, many riders (up to 35%) would have traveled via public transportation instead, or walked, biked, or opted not to go at all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) suggests through its analysis that the average ride-hailing trip is 69% more polluting than the trip it displaced. Furthermore, it says that a single-rider trip in an Uber or a Lyft is 47% more polluting than driving your own car instead.

The Clean Miles Standard uses metrics such as percent of electric vehicle miles traveled (eVMT) and grams per CO2 per passenger mile-traveled (g CO2/PMT). Only miles generated using a battery-electric vehicle (such as the Volvo C40 Recharge) or a fuel cell vehicle (such as the Toyota Mirai) qualify for the eVMT targets.

Additional ways companies can reach these targets include reducing miles driven without a passenger, increased pooling, and earning CO2 credits. These credits are available through investment in sidewalk and bike infrastructure and connecting TNC booking apps to public transportation.

The Clean Miles Standard does not apply to small TNCs generating under five million annual vehicle miles. However, smaller TNCs must submit annual compliance reports and biennial plans for reducing their CO2 emissions.

Food and goods delivery services are also exempt from the Clean Miles Standard.