Why ride-hailing fleets could cause more pollution than private cars

·1-min read
Research suggests that although ride-hailing vehicles are less polluting on a single trip, they are more polluting than a private vehicle over the course of a day.

In the United States, ride-hailing services may claim that they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in major cities and keep traffic moving. But it's not that simple. A recent study suggests that while this type of vehicle is, on average, less polluting on a given journey, this advantage is negated over the course of the day by all the miles they are driven without paying customers.

According to a study published by the American Chemical Society , even a fully electric fleet of private-hire vehicles would not fully mitigate the additional cost that ride-hailing cars impose on society, compared to driving a private car.

Because they drive for longer than other vehicles, trips in ride-hailing cars can reduce the air pollutants associated with so-called cold starts. In addition, they are, on average, newer and less polluting than conventional passenger vehicles. In fact, on average, ride-hailing travel could result in a 50-60% reduction in the costs linked to local air pollution. Unfortunately, this benefit is offset by the negative effects of the time spent between fares, during which drivers travel without passengers until their next pickup. This can account for up to 40% of the total mileage of each car. In the end, each ride-hailing trip could cost society about 35 cents more in terms of pollution treatment than if it were made in a private car.

To come to this conclusion, researchers simulated the replacement of private vehicle travel by ride-hailing services in six US cities, including Austin, Chicago and New York.

David Bénard

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