In what could be a preview of the future of taxi service, Uber has just launched its first fleet of electric cars in Madrid, Spain. Wherever Uber goes, it tends to engender the anger of taxi companies who face strict regulations, though the electric fleet is aimed to assuage some of that animosity and build good will in a city governed by a progressive mayor.
According to Reuters, the company hopes these cleaner cars will help boost its image in the eyes of mayor Manuela Carmena, the left-leaning, environmentally conscious local leader who helped enact new rules last month aimed at combatting automobile pollution. The law includes a range of measures, including limiting private traffic in the city center and reducing speed limits on access roads.
Managing director of Uber for southern Europe, Carles Lloret told Reuters that the company is looking to do what it can to make its operation align with the city’s vision. “We want to do things that are in line with what the town wants,” Lloret said.
The company is also looking to bring more legitimacy and goodwill to its company in the eyes of Madrid’s regulators and other transportation providers. Reuters notes that in 2014, the company’s UberPOP service was driven out of Spain due to hostility from the taxi industry and regulatory issues. It came back in April, 2015 with its expanded UberONE service, which uses professionally licensed drivers. Its addition of electric cars is also part of this premium service that includes various extras like in-car Internet connections.
Still, the company is operating in Madrid with restrictive licenses it says deters growth, and hopes the electric fleet might “encourage a liberalization of the car-sharing sector.”
Lloret said, “We would love to see more licenses awarded in the future, perhaps for greener cars, so there could be more in circulation”.