My rideshare experience began with a gasoline vehicle - a Mazda SUV. Based on fuel economy and gas prices, my fuel costs were roughly $0.20/mile, depending on driving conditions. On top of that, I could expect scheduled maintenance costs at an estimated price of $0.10/mile, according to the federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
With both of these costs totaling $0.30/mil, I was losing roughly 20% of my income to fuel and maintenance costs.
I was curious how I might cut down these costs and noticed that for an electric vehicle, the EERE estimates scheduled maintenance costs at $0.06/mile, with an estimated 60% reduction in fuel costs compared to gasoline vehicles. Up to this point, I hadn’t planned on transitioning into an EV yet, but the potential savings were intriguing.
When replacing my vehicle for rideshare, I had a handful of things to consider:
- Price - I wanted my monthly payment to be unchanged, which required the MSRP of the vehicle to be similar. Given the many EV incentives offered by the state of California, I had some flexibility about the specific car and options I could choose from.
- Range - I was driving 3-4 hours per day, which kept my daily mileage at or under 100 miles. Given this, I wanted to ensure the vehicle range was at least twice that amount (i.e. 200+ miles).
- Charging speed - this was the least important as I wasn’t planning on using the entire battery range in one day, but I did want the ability to use DCFC if needed.
It is important to note here that the vehicle was not only going to be used for rideshare, but would also be my primary household vehicle. It was possible that I would use the car for ridesharing and then need it for personal use. Therefore, range and the ability to charge conveniently were quite important to me.
Electrifying my rideshare experience
After weeks of testing vehicles, researching charging opportunities in my area, and reviewing all available incentives, I settled on the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Importantly, one incentive specific to GM was the free installation of a 240V outlet, which would allow me to charge at home. Additionally, the Bay Area has many public chargers, both L2 and DCFC. Without both of these charging options, I do not believe a BEV would have been the appropriate choice for me.
Let’s look at some of the changes specific to the rideshare experience :
- Cost - As desired, my monthly payment was unchanged, expected maintenance costs decreased ($0.10/mile to $0.06/mile), and fuel costs dropped dramatically. Over the course of 7500 miles, fuel costs were roughly $0.038/mile (an 80% decrease). Charging exclusively at home resulted in a rate of $0.055/mile (first 500 miles). However, I quickly learned that public charging, although less convenient, allowed for charging at reduced rates, oftentimes even free. These calculations assume an estimated 144 MPGe.
- Range - The Bolt EV is EPA rated for 259 miles when fully charged, assuming 120 MPGe combined. Based on the efficiency that I was obtaining, my total maximum range was closer to 300 miles. This provided a large amount of flexibility in how long I was able to work and how frequently I needed to charge. 300 miles could allow for 6-8 hours of driving between charges. Note: this is completely dependent on driving style and climate and your experience may vary. Range is very dependent on the way you use your car, and there is the potential for large decreases at faster speeds, with increased highway driving, or extreme temperatures/terrains.
- Fueling - It should be no surprise that charging is significantly slower than filling up with gas. Based on the amount of time I spent on a rideshare app, this was not an issue for me, but could represent a significant limitation (see more below).
- Net Income - As previously mentioned, I was losing 20%+ of my rideshare income to car-related expenses when I was driving my gas car. Switching to an EV decreased this to 7-10%, and my revenue increased with promotions specific to EV drivers (see Uber Zero Emissions incentive).
Downsides & Limitations
The big advantages of using an EV for rideshare are the reduction of costs and the ability to refuel when you’re off the clock.
However, there are also limitations. The major ones are range and refueling speed, both of which may limit your time spent on the rideshare app. Personally, this allowed me to be more careful with choosing when to drive and which trips to accept, which resulted in a higher hourly rate and reduction of unnecessary mileage on the vehicle. More specifically, I generally avoid long trips (45+ minutes, 60+ miles) that put me far from home. These trips severely dip into my range, which may force me to find chargers in areas I’m unfamiliar with, and which may be far more expensive than the ones I know. Instead, I focus on accepting more trips that are shorter, since this also takes advantage of the EV incentives offered by Uber, which are based on the number of trips I take. Overall, these limitations work for me, since they prevent me from working ‘too much’ by introducing mandatory breaks when range is nearing levels that may cause range anxiety.
More broadly speaking, if you’re relying on public charging, it’s not always simple to ensure access to functional chargers. Oftentimes they are taken, or chargers are broken/not working. Therefore, EVs require more planning, which includes back-up plans to account for charger availability. These limitations will only improve with increased EV adoption, but it’s something you should be aware of if you plan on using an EV for ridesharing.
Many rideshare apps now have the ability for riders to choose ‘green’ rides. These rides account for 5-10% of my trips, and these riders typically do not discuss EVs - likely because they’re already familiar. For the remaining trips, perhaps 20% of riders ask what kind of vehicle they are in, and are shocked to find out that it’s fully electric. The typical questions regarding range, charging speed, and costs are common.
As a proponent for the alternative fuel movement, these moments represent a fantastic opportunity to educate. These riders often have misconceptions on what owning an EV looks like, with “inconvenient charging” and “too expensive” being the most common. I like to share my perspective with them, comparing my lifestyle to their own, and how an EV might work for them. I’m also quick to point out federal and state incentives, as well as the ability to charge for free. When’s the last time you got a free gallon of gas?
Personally, the transition from gasoline to electric was easier than expected. Many rideshare companies are offering incentives to make the transition easier, including vehicle rebates, assistance with charger installation, and other ways to save. Including state rebates, these forms of assistance lowered the barrier to entry, allowing me to purchase an EV at a reasonable cost and install an outlet at home for convenient charging. However, this may not be the case for your situation, so it is important to research your specific market. Additionally, if you plan to rideshare full-time, an EV may not be the appropriate choice, considering the range of current EVs on the market and charging infrastructure. It likely depends a lot on where you live, what the average ride distance is, and what the local charging infrastructure is like. For supplemental or part-time rideshare work, EVs can be a great option. Compared to traditional gasoline vehicles, they offer an opportunity to obtain higher revenues, reduced expenses, and a reduced carbon footprint.
Written by Brandon August, a lifelong explorer of all things academic. After obtaining an undergraduate physics degree and a doctoral degree in biomedical, he began to explore various professional fields in health and wellness, rideshare work, freelance writing, and day trading. On the recreational side, he has always been involved in the automotive field, owning various vehicles across the years. After a recent move to California, he entered the EV space, purchasing both a Chevrolet Bolt EV and a Bolt EUV for his household.