In the wake of numerous recent PR setbacks, Uber may be able to help clean up its image with the launch of the Uber EV initiative in Portland, which supports the city's green vision for the future.
When you think of electric mobility, California might be the first state to come to mind—but Oregon is not far behind.
It's one of 13 states that have adopted California's Clean Car Standards, and Oregon is also one of the first states in which automakers release plug-in electric vehicles (and compliance cars).
Uber is now asking its current Portland driver-partners to sign up for the Uber electric program, which will officially kick off in late May.
The company has about 6,000 active drivers in Oregon, with about 100 of them already using some form of electric vehicle. Uber hopes to increase that number to 10 percent by 2019, or 600 drivers, according to a recent article in TechCrunch.
Oregon was chosen because the state recently passed a bill to encourage utilities to increase and improve the infrastructure to support the growing number of plug-in vehicles.
Uber hasn't said if it is offering driver-partners any money towards purchasing an EV if they do not currently own one, or rebates to drivers who use a car that plugs in.
It will likely offer special EV lease deals through its subsidiary Xchange Leasing to drivers who need to purchase a car to let them participate in the Portland EV initiative.
Uber's driver-partners will benefit from lower operational costs, as electricity is generally cheaper than gas per mile traveled and all-electric cars have much less maintenance than internal combustion cars.
Driver-partners who use an electric vehicle also have an opportunity to earn a bit more by joining Uber's EV Ambassador program.
That program is part of Uber's partnership with Drive Oregon, a nonprofit group whose goal is to increase the number of plug-in electric vehicles on the roads of Oregon.
Drive Oregon will train the drivers to communicate the benefits of using electric cars to their customers, and promote the use of EVs and sustainability.
Uber and the Black Parents Initiative will try to encourage minority drivers to take advantage of the EV ambassador opportunity as well.
Even Uber Eats is moving to electrification through partnerships with Cynergy E-Bikes and Arcimoto to help provide their delivery people with electric bikes to make deliveries.
The Uber electric initiative is a good move for the company's image and its drivers, but to make a real impact this program will need to expand into other major metropolitan areas.
But this first initiative can be viewed as an early step on the way to an ultimate goal: a full fleet of Uber electric, self-driving cars like the ones they have tested in California and are now offering in Arizona.
Meanwhile, Portland residents will soon have a greater chance of riding in a zero-emission vehicle the next time they click for an Uber ride.