Electric Vehicles in Ridehailing Applications: Insights From a Fall 2019 Survey of Lyft and Uber Drivers in Los Angeles

This projects seeks to better understand why ridesourcing drivers are not choosing to purchase EVs.

Research team

Deepak Rajagopal

Deepak Rajagopal is an associate professor in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from University of California, Berkeley and Master of Science degrees in Agricultural and Resource Economics (UC Berkeley), and Mechanical Engineering (University of Maryland, College Park) and Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras). Prior to joining UCLA, was also a post-doctoral researcher at the Energy Biosciences Institute, UC Berkeley.

Nicole Sintov

Nicole Sintov is an Assistant Professor of Behavior, Decision Making and Sustainability at Ohio State University. Her work takes an interdisciplinary approach grounded in behavioral science with a focus on quantitative methods (e.g., experimental, survey), often involving collection of high-resolution consumption (e.g., smart electric meter) and other consumer data. Key areas of interest include how individuals use energy in households, the adoption and use of energy efficient technologies (e.g., electric cars), and behavioral spillover across the food-energy-water nexus. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, US Department of Energy, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, World Wildlife Fund, and US Army Research Office.

Project description

Electric vehicles (EV) are a critical piece in a sustainable personal transportation infrastructure. Since EVs entail significantly higher up-front cost in exchange for lower fuel costs, the average U.S. household vehicle will require a decade of use to achieve a payback on this investment. An EV used for ridesourcing, however, should result in a much faster payoff, as the miles driven per year would be much greater. Our calculations suggest depending on the intensity of usage, it is possible to realize a payback period of 3 years or less. However, given the high turnover rate among ridesourcing drivers, it is unclear as to whether this sufficiently quick for the average ridesourcing vehicle. In addition, drivers might be facing other potential barriers to adoption of EVs. Our project seeks to gain better understanding of such issues and what is the role of public policy in overcoming the barriers to adoption of EVs in the  ridesourcing sector.

For more details and project results, see the full paper and accompanying presentation.

Research questions

What inputs are involved in a ridesourcing driver’s decision-making process with regards to vehicle selection?

What are the biggest perceived barriers to EV adoption among ridesourcing drivers? Are there perceived opportunities?

What additional targeted public policies and city-level planning and investment is needed to overcome the key barriers identified?


The core task is to collect data through a survey of ridesourcing drivers operating in Los Angeles and analyze the data to identify the perceptions about, the opportunities for and barriers to adoption of EVs in ridesourcing applications. We intend to survey about 100 drivers over a period of 4 to 5 months. 

Broader impacts

This research will be among the first to develop a detailed understanding of ridesourcing drivers’s motivations and economic constraints and their perceptions about not just electric vehicles but energy efficiency and fuel costs. It will also be amongst the first to analyze the utilization of EV as an income-generating investment by individuals at the lower end of the income distribution as opposed to it being a green preference of the more affluent. The latter framing is predominant both in scholarly literature, policy discussions and popular discourse on EVs. As a consequence of this new framing, our research will generate soriginal insights on behavior and decision-making in the context of sustainability.

Learn more