EV Electric cost goes up 25%, nobody blinks, plus why your Uber isn't electric


Here are two recent articles on the economics of electric vehicles.

On Nov 1, PG&E, probably the most common power company for electric vehicle owners, raised the cost of their EV off-peak rate by about 25% in exchange for making the off-peak period last longer. Nobody even noticed, even though a 25% rise in gas prices would be a major calamity in the eyes of many. I look into that math and why nobody cared in:

PG&E raises EV costs by 25% and nobody blinks

Why your Uber/Lyft is not an EV (yet)

Second, the math now says that if you want to buy a new car to drive Uber/Lyft full time, some of the electrics are a clear win. Yet very rarely do you see this. I wrote an article going over the math, and outlining some of the reasons which get in the way (particularly the fact that Uber/Lyft drivers may not be homeowners who can put in charging, and that new cars are not the best choice for TNC and a few others.)

Read about that in Why isn't your Uber an electric car?


I think you forgot to take into consideration that federal tax rebates are not refundable, and very few gig workers pay $7,500 or more in federal income taxes. In fact, probably more than half pay $0 in federal income taxes (it was 44% of Americans in 2018 and gig workers tend to be on the lower income end of things).

That's another reason to buy used, though. Maybe once the cost of reasonably sized and featured EVs comes down more, we'll see it become more reasonable for less wealthy individuals to start owning them. I wouldn't hold my breath, though. Big batteries are still expensive.

Given that non-refundable tax credits enable car manufacturers to charge more for their vehicles, there's a reasonable argument that the tax credits are part of the reason why lower income people don't drive EVs very much.

And as noted, used vehicles are definitely the choice here. As would be leases if they didn't charge you so much for miles, though you can get high mile leases if you pay for them.

The rebates started as a way to make cars that did not provide enough value for their high cost a little more affordable -- all the early cars were compliance cars anyway. Over time, the rebates may become a subsidy only for the manufacturers and keep the price higher than it would be in a competitive market. We should tax the pollution instead and let the market sort it out.

I doubt the cost of pollution from burning gasoline comes anywhere close to $7,500 over the life of a typical vehicle.

People differ of course about what the cost of GHG emissions is, but this cost would be added on gasoline and not on renewable electricity, which continues to fall in price.

However, there is a huge cost in lives to burning gasoline and diesel, from the small particulates. Note that this cost would also go on those with coal generated electricity.

The fact that the costs can't be objectively measured is exactly why it's a bad idea.

Just saying "there is a huge cost" without quantifying the cost doesn't cut it, it my opinion.

There are "huge costs" to everything.

There are huge costs to the California wildfires, of which Pacific Gas & Electric has caused over 1,500 in the past six years.

They know how many hundreds of thousands die due to particulate emissions. Of course that is spread around between various emitters, with coal and diesel being the worst. The cost of GHGs is less well quantified.

How much is the cost per gallon of gasoline? Most Uber vehicles don't run on coal or diesel.

Hundreds of thousands throughout the world? Likely most of them live in places where pollution is much worse than where I live. Should the tax be based on where you live? Based on how clean burning your engine is?

And what about all the deaths and pollution and property damage caused by the grid? Should we tax grid users too? Can we at least start charging them, instead of letting solar panel owners use the grid pretty much for free?

Earlier this year put the cost of PM2.5 pollution at 107,000 deaths and $886B per year in the USA alone. Globally it's many hundreds of thousands more.


Not that everybody concurs. But it's definitely huge. And these pollutants are coming from many sources, not just burning coal/gasoline/diesel. (And the EVs in the states that are mostly powered by coal are of course as bad or in some cases worse than the gasoline cars.)

That paper is certainly a start, though as you recognize its accuracy is disputed. Note that it's not 107K deaths and $886M. Those figures are presented as equivalent. Note that only 28% of the deaths are associated with transportation (not clear what fraction of that is passenger cars but probably a small fraction as passenger cars pollute less per mile, though they perhaps sit idle longer, causing pollution while idle unless they turn off the engine then like hybrids do). It points out that an outsized role in the pollution problem is caused in densely populated areas. A well designed tax would reflect that - there'd likely be about zero tax for driving in non-urban areas where pollution just isn't much of a problem.

There's a good summary in the blurb I read: "Our paper highlights the importance of a fine-scale approach as marginal damages can vary by over an order of magnitude within a single county."

This seems like the data will suggest the need more for a congestion tax (with both EVs and hybrids, along with any other vehicles that don't have engines running while idle, exempt) rather than a tax per gallon on gasoline.

Or maybe just a tax on residents and businesses located in urban areas, if implementing a congestion tax is too difficult.

Simultaneously, we should also look at how effective mitigation can be. How many lives would we save, and at what cost, by putting better quality cabin filters in every vehicle?

I'm definitely willing to consider taxes on behavior that causes damage to innocent victims if that damage can be objectively quantified. It looks like the beginnings of that quantification has been begun. On the other hand, it looks like a flat national tax per gallon of gasoline would not be at all effective in addressing the problem. Such a poorly targeted tax would likely have side effects that would actually make pollution worse. It's not a coincidence that pollution tends to be worst in places where people are taxed the most. Socialism kills.

It is 107K deaths with an estimated impact of $866B, not plus.

There is less PM2.5 death caused by rural driving, but of course the same amount of GHG. This study does not factor in the cost of the GHG.

Nonetheless, it does mean there is a significant difference between driving my electric car powered by solar+wind, vs. driving an ICE car here in the city, and not inappropriate to subsidize the former (or penalize the latter.)

First of all, your electric car is not powered solely by solar and wind. Your car is powered by the grid. Perhaps by a grid company that has caused thousands of forest fires, causing lots of pollution, many direct deaths, and billions in property damage and firefighting costs. That's not even to mention all the awful things associated with battery production or disposal. Your car is powered by batteries, which were powered by the grid, which was powered by many different types of power production, including coal.

But even if your car were solely powered by solar and wind (maybe you have solar panels and a windmill and a couple Powerwalls at home), I still think it is very inappropriate to subsidize you or penalize others based on a very incomplete analysis of one (and zero analysis of the other).

Furthermore, I think if such an analysis could be done, and the benefits of an EV car outweighed the costs of them, the free market could solve the problem without the need for government intervention.

Finally, I doubt it's true at this point that the benefits of EVs to the average driver outweigh the costs. EVs are already heavily subsided far in excess of their benefits to society, and they've still only managed to attract mainly higher income buyers who place an unreasonably high value on acting like they're doing something good for the world while wasting precious resources that most of the world can't afford to waste.

Hopefully we'll get there someday. Hybrids are already available that pollute very little but still are reasonably priced and have very good range. EVs are slowly getting there, though there will probably need to be a revolution in battery capabilities before they can replace all other new passenger vehicles.

Well I wrote a bunch of detailed articles on this earlier in the year, but after lots of analysis, I have concluded that I can generally claim my car is powered by solar and wind. While there is one big grid, all the money I pay into the grid goes only to solar and wind suppliers, and thus pays for the cost of building and maintaining more renewables in a reasonably clear (but far from totally clear) way.

The people with solar panels and powerwalls are NOT powering their cars with solar. They are powering them from the grid mix that they pay for. The more they drive, the more grid power they draw (just as it is for me.) However, if they are paying for fossil fuel power, then the more they drive, the more fossil is burned. For me, that's not true over the very long term (though it can be instantaneously true for any given kwh I draw.)

Anyway, I agree that subsidizing the vehicles or any other specific technology is the wrong approach. However, it's also true that letting people burn gasoline that is harming my environment without paying for their externalities is a subsidy of that, and effort should be made to balance this. In a free society, you have zero right to emit toxins into anybody's environment without their permission.

I've read those articles, and I don't think your analysis is right. You may be interested in this Vox article (https://www.vox.com/2015/11/9/9696820/renewable-energy-certificates) about renewable energy certificates. Bottom line is that "RECs are so oversupplied and so cheap that it's pretty easy to conclude they're providing virtually no financial additionality at the moment. They're just not a big enough revenue source to make the difference on a large power project. Most projects receiving REC revenue now would have been built regardless."

I'm not sure if your system is using RECs directly, but regardless of what you're doing, it is likely the same result. The money you're paying that you say "goes only to solar and wind suppliers" almost certainly doesn't literally go only to solar and wind suppliers. Dollars, like electrons, are fungible. Most likely only a small portion of your electric bill is being used to buy RECs from solar and wind suppliers. But in any event, it's irrelevant, because without your money going to solar and wind suppliers, the money would come from somewhere else.

By people telling their power company that they want to buy exclusively from solar and wind companies, they raise the cost of telling your power company that you want to buy exclusively from solar and wind companies, and some of that extra cost trickles into those solar and wind companies. You're subsidizing the solar and wind companies, hopefully with all of that extra payment, and maybe in California that's true, though in many states only a portion of the extra payment goes to the actual generation companies (a lot of it usually goes to advertising and marketing). But the thing is, solar and wind generation is already profitable without any residential customers giving them subsidies. So in all likelihood, the solar and wind generation you're subsidizing "would have been built regardless."

"The people with solar panels and powerwalls are NOT powering their cars with solar." They may or may not be. You can own solar panels and powerwalls and still get power from the grid (to charge the cars, or to charge the powerwalls). Or you might not. If you power your powerwalls exclusively with the solar panels, and you power your car exclusively with a combination of solar panels and powerwalls, then you are powering your cars exclusively with solar.

"However, if they are paying for fossil fuel power, then the more they drive, the more fossil is burned. For me, that's not true over the very long term." I'm sure it's true for you too. One kWh bought from a renewable energy source does not displace one kWh from a fossil fuel source. When you buy a kWh from a renewable energy source, that source has one less kWh to sell on the open market, which means some other source has to provide for the demand. The only way it would be otherwise would be if the renewable energy source exclusively sold energy to people who exclusively demand energy from renewable energy sources. And then you'd only have energy available from the grid when renewable energy was available. You couldn't use dirty sources on calm nights. You'd just have to do without power during those times. Or buy a powerwall or two, and on days when your powerwall was too low, use less power (drive less, turn the A/C to a higher temperature, etc.). And when the renewable energy sources produced more than was demanded (maybe all the powerwalls are full), they'd have to throw the excess away (or interestingly, they could sell the power at a negative price, so long as the negative price plus the price they could get for RECs was above zero).

Maybe some people with solar panels and powerwalls are not paying for fossil fuel power. Maybe they aren't even connected to the grid. Maybe they just use less energy when it's not sunny out. It's unlikely. Most people aren't that hard core. But it's certainly possible. (Note that I don't think there's much benefit from being so hard core, except maybe if you live in California, where the grid seems to be particularly evil.)

The more you drive an EV, the more fossil fuels are burned, if all else is equal, unless you exclusively charge your EV with non-fossil fuel sources that aren't connected (directly or indirectly) to the grid. If you want to offset that burning of fossil fuels, you need to both produce non-fossil fuel energy *and buy MECs (or retire the MECs you earn by producing the clean energy). In a market where MECs are cheap because clean energy is plentiful (supply of clean energy far exceeds demand for only-clean energy), producing clean energy is the far bigger part of that equation.

Incidentally, there are other ways to drive a car without contributing to the burning of fossil fuels, if that's the only thing you care about. Not all fuels are fossil fuels.

"In a free society, you have zero right to emit toxins into anybody's environment without their permission." If that were true, emitting toxins wouldn't be taxed, it would be criminalized. No, you do have some right to emit some toxins into the environment. Without such a right, we couldn't live.

In a free society, if you want to force someone to pay for supposed externalities that they have caused, you need to objectively prove the cost of those externalities. You still haven't done that. You presented an article that begins to try to measure it, but haven't produced any final figures or final proposal for how much people should pay, for what, under what circumstances, and why.

What about the externalities caused by the grid? Who is going to pay for them? Hopefully the PG&E customers will pay for the externalities caused by PG&E, but more likely PG&E will be bailed out or forced into bankruptcy. Unlike the supposed externalities caused by burning gasoline, a substantial amount of the externalities caused by PG&E's grid can be objectively proven, and it's many billions of dollars (thousands of dollars per customer in just a few years).

Well, government subsidies can muck up anything, it's true. Broadly, my power company (and I have gone over there and had long discussions with them on this issue) buys MWh every day from the wind farms (mostly) and solar farms on the varying markets. It pays slightly more for these in order to buy them. That money goes to the wind farm. No, that doesn't instantly create new windmills. But over time, the knowledge that the demand is there to pay a slight premium does justify building another windmill. That's why I said it doesn't happen instantaneously. When you look at the demand minute to minute, yes, plugging in will increase fossil use. But being one of 1,000 more customers doing this over a longer period justifies building more windmills. That might be reduced by the government subsidies justifying it anyway, but they aren't being built as fast as they can possibly be built, and the amount of money flowing directly to those wind farms is going to play a role in that.

Yes, if you disconnect from the grid, you are all solar. But that's really silly because if you disconnect, then once your batteries start filling up, you just discard all your surplus power -- which could have been put on the grid to offset fossil. So to feel good about being all solar, you ended up causing more emissions, which is not what you actually wanted to do.

When I say you have no right to poison my environment, I refer to the general principle that you don't have the right to harm me without my permission. Governments have decided to let people do that, it's true. Governments could either stop allowing that (for example, allowing us to file class actions against any polluters for their damage) or, more efficiently, put taxes on the pollution.

In libertaria (which of course does not exist) I would be able to come up to you and say, "Stop putting toxins in my air, or get my agreement to let you do that, or I will use force to stop you in self defence." Nobody would doubt the right to do that if your neighbour was venting cyanide onto your land, but in principle this is not different, though usually solved with much more subtle methods because it is different -- a tiny harm to millions rather than a big harm to one.

The article I linked to earlier described things well. Yes, it's possible that the "slight premium" that the windmill company receives might encourage them to create new windmills that they wouldn't otherwise create. It's possible, though I doubt it. What is definitely not the case is that one kWh you buy from the windmill farm at that "slight premium" will cause them to produce one kWh that they wouldn't otherwise produce. Not instantaneously, and not over time. It's fine if you want to feel better about yourself for subsidizing windmill farms. But it's just not true that your electric car is powered solely by solar and wind.

It's possible to disconnect from the grid and never have any surplus power that you can't store in a battery. You'll have shortages sometimes, and during those times you'll have to make do with less. As I said, you'd have to be pretty "hard core" to want to do that. Anyway, you've admitted that if you disconnect from the grid you can be all solar, and that's the only point I was making, in response to your statement that "the people with solar panels and powerwalls are NOT powering their cars with solar." Some of them are, and you're not. Whether or not that's a good thing is not what I was commenting on. Like I said, if you want to feel good about yourself, fine. If you want to feel like you're better than people who aren't connected to the grid, that's fine. Go ahead. Feel better. Block out all the deaths caused by the grid. Pretend they never happened. It's okay. If we completely boycotted all companies that did any evil things, we'd never be able to survive. The world is not all or nothing, and that's actually a point that I make below.

I disagree with you about rights. "You don't have the right to harm me without my permission" is not a statement that is true in the absolute. There is a huge difference between venting (significant amounts of) cyanide onto someone's land and driving a car on the public highways.

Your original statement was that I "have zero right to emit toxins into anybody's environment without their permission." Emphasis mine, and the emphasized part is the part I take issue with. I'm not sure what you mean by describing a place that "of course does not exist," but another thing that doesn't exist is the principle that pollution can be treated as an absolute. The very nature of pollution is such that it has to reach a certain threshold before it is actionable. If it weren't that way, we couldn't breathe. We couldn't sneeze. We couldn't drive a car.

You have failed to prove that the very minor pollutants that come out of a modern passenger automobile powered by gasoline reach the threshold where it should be actionable. Furthermore, the problem of pollution is highly local. If the people of Los Angeles want to tax people who drive gasoline cars in Los Angeles, that is one thing. I'm not sure if I'd support that or not. I choose not to live in Los Angeles in part because it's too polluted, and in another part because taxes are too high there. Taxing me for driving where I live, where this type of pollution is not a significant problem, is not acceptable, however.

We already have laws that control how much pollution can be produced by an automobile. I'm not opposed to them. What I'm opposed to is the idea that zero pollution is acceptable.

It would be a very strange off-grid system that is responsible for sole charging of a car that never gets overages. You would need an immense amount of battery, such that you would not fill it when you get a week of solid sun. Around here, you can get several weeks of solid sun -- and we're about to go into a complete week of rain. People travel sometimes, not using much power and lot driving their car. If you can find me a real example of somebody with an off grid solar system who has never thrown away a fairly large amount of excess solar power, I will be quite surprised and I am sure there are not many of them, at least if renewables are their only source.

My power company is buying contracts from these wind farms. When 1000 new customers sign up and start charging cars, wanting 10 MWH every day extra from them, what do you propose happens, over the long term? Before this came along, yes, they were selling all their power, but they had to sell it for a lower price because there was less demand. With my power company trying to buy 10MWh every day, now they can sell it for more. Now they want to build more wind farms, especially as more cars come online wanting their power. The gas plants find less demand. They need to lower prices. The power companies selling the regular mix still have requirements to have a minimum amount of renewables. They start bidding higher in the market for more such power too. It gets built. If 50% of the state starts only paying for renewables, then more renewables get built. If 55% of the state does that, even more renewables get built. Otherwise you can't meet the demand -- in which case the price gets even higher for a while until some customers remove the restriction, or more is built.

Yes, it'd be a strange off-grid system. You wouldn't necessarily need an immense amount of battery. You wouldn't necessarily need any battery at all, in fact. How much battery you would need would depend on how willing you were to experience blackouts when production is low. (It also would depend on how flexible your energy demands are.)

I think the key point in this strange hypothetical is this: The only way to drive an electric car (today) without having an impact on the amount of fossil fuel that is burned is to forego electricity usage somewhere else in exchange for the electricity usage used by the driving.

If all you cared about was fossil fuel consumption, though, there'd be an easier way. Drive a car that uses some sort of non-fossil fuel, such as a biofuel. (Yes, there are other problems with that, but it would probably satisfy the criterion of not causing any fossil fuel to be burned, at least if you ignore the fossil fuels that are burned by the farmers who helped create the biofuel.)

Now that I think about it, given the caveat about the farmers, that second method wouldn't work. So long as we live in a world where fossil fuel burning is so prevalent, the best you can do is reduce consumption and try to accelerate the process of moving away from such a world. There's no easy fix, and these renewable resource credits are mostly just an accounting trick to make people feel better about themselves.

It's nice to be able to say, "Powered by 100 percent clean electricity!" but it's a lie. https://www.vox.com/2015/11/9/9696820/renewable-energy-certificates

"When 1000 new customers sign up and start charging cars, wanting 10 MWH every day extra from them, what do you propose happens, over the long term?"

Assuming you mean 1000 new customers willing to pay a higher price than the customers they are currently providing 10,000 MWH every day to, what happens over the long term is that their investors make more money. Those investors may or may not invest in other wind farms with that extra money. Probably not, as past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you really want to give investors incentives to build more wind farms, you'd have to contract to buy power from them before they create the wind farms. Sure, you've signed up for this renewable energy program now, but you haven't committed to buying any renewable energy in the future, have you?

"Now they want to build more wind farms, especially as more cars come online wanting their power. The gas plants find less demand."

That's one place where you're wrong. The gas plants find more demand, because the wind farm was previously providing 10,000 MWH every day to people who were willing to get their power from the gas plants, but were able to get it cheaper from the wind farm. Now those people can't get their power from the wind farm, so they have to get it from the gas plant (or whatever the next cheapest source was on the list).

What you seem to be ignoring is the fact that supply of renewable power sources already exceeds the demand of power from renewable sources from people who exclusive want to get their power from renewable sources. The wind farms are profitable whether people voluntarily demand clean energy or not. They're going to get built whether people voluntarily demand clean energy or not. This is a great success story for wind power (and for solar), as that wasn't always the case. But now that it's the case, contributions from voluntary subsidy providers like yourself (which make up a tiny fraction of the subsidies that these wind farms receive) are unnecessary. They might slightly encourage people to invest in wind farms over the long term, but probably not at all, as it's such a negligible amount.

The key point, again, is that these wind farms are already profitable without you. They're already profitable without anyone who voluntarily gives them subsidies. The voluntary subsidies give them a little bit more profit, and maybe on the margins it encourages investors to invest in wind farms over whatever other investment they would have done otherwise, but 1) even that is rather uncertain, as there is no guarantee that these voluntary subsidies will continue, and 2) it's absolutely not a one for one proposition.

"Most projects receiving REC revenue now would have been built regardless."


"If 50% of the state starts only paying for renewables, then more renewables get built. If 55% of the state does that, even more renewables get built. Otherwise you can't meet the demand -- in which case the price gets even higher for a while until some customers remove the restriction, or more is built."

If demand for energy solely from renewables ever exceeded supply (it's nowhere near that, and almost surely never will be), then yes, in the long term, more would get built than would otherwise.

In the short term, the people who demanded energy solely from renewables would experience blackouts.

Currently the demand is less than the supply. And some of that supply was built because of subsidies and credits. But in a normal situation, as demand grows, supply will grow. If demand exceeds supply, that's because of everybody who made that demand. When demand exceeds supply, the price goes up and more supply will be built.

There won't be blackouts because people will settle for 2nd best rather than get a blackout. Like any commodity that has grades, some people pay more for the higher grades. That causes more production of the higher grades, even if they cost more to produce. If they can't get the higher grade, they accept the lower grade. (They only go without if it's an optional purchase.)

Of course, all electricity has the same functionality, and these grades are only in how we see ourselves as paying for things that cause pollution.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's an immediate 1:1 association with what type of energy I pay for and what gets generated that day. But you seem to be saying there is zero association.

I'm saying there's currently very little association. In fact, I'm not just saying it, I've laid out the evidence that shows it to be the case.

Here's another study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960148113005338

Could it change? Sure. I see no evidence it will, though.

I bought a Chevy Bolt in March 2018 and kind of accidentally started giving Lyft / Uber rides. 4000 rides later and with 93k miles on the odometer I'm pretty much convinced the Chevy Bolt is ideal for rideshare driving for the reasons in the article. It is also a blast to drive and rear seat passengers are pleasantly suprised by the amount of room in back.

I anticipate a service life of at least 200k, possibly 300k miles if I continue Rideshare.

So far in 93k miles I've had one minor repair ($100) and one set of tires ($800).

EVs have no transmission, no exhaust system, no emissions controls, no timing belt, no alternator, no starter...these subsystems tend to represent the bulk of costly repairs during a regular car's "middle years" - the mileage interval between 100 and 200k.

Despite hundreds of thousands of stops at intersections, pickups and dropoffs, the Bolt's brakes are basically like new - EV regen mode handles the vast majority of slowing and stopping - ideal for urban work such as rideshare driving.

FKA makes a good point about tax rebates being non-refundable and thus useless to many (most) gig workers. We may see more rideshare EVs and 2-5 year old Leafs, Bolts and Tesla 3s come off lease or get traded in enroute to the used market.

One big thing that Uber, Lyft and others could do to facilitate the transition to EVs is work with airports to install DC Fast Charging stations in the waiting lot, with the lowest available EV volumetric rates. In CA, those rates are low mid-day, when lots of drivers are waiting at the airport, and addresses the needs of drivers who don't have access to charging at home.

Right now, it's very rare for any public charging to compete with the price at home. And EV charging is such a hit-or-miss business that those charging rates stay high, needing to pay for the cost of the charging station (with light use) as well as electricity.

You are right that a station assured to get high use on somebody else's land might be able to charge lower prices. However, you can't easily stop the fact that rates will be high from 3pm to 9pm, though if you put in solar you might lower your cost from 3pm to 6pm.

One issue is that drivers don't want downtime. At typical DC Fast rates for current cars of 50kw or less, you need about 1.5 hours to get you enough power for your 180 mile day. Who wants to sit around 1.5 hours without pay? Perhaps if they had something else to do, like customer service etc. Charging at home is so much better because aside from being cheaper, it takes zero time from your day. You can't beat zero.

Rather than fast charging which reduces the life of batteries, it might make sense to have a single model fleet which operates at train stations and airports.
The utility owners could do a deal with GM or Tesla, or whoever.
The single model and one fixed endpoint would make battery swap far more efficient than normal, and reduce the downtime.

Wouldn't it be much easier to swap out the entire vehicle rather than just the battery?

Not that it necessarily makes sense to do either. If your typical day of driving exceeds the range of a decent battery, and you don't have enough downtime during those days to recharge, maybe relying solely on battery power isn't for you.

Remember that recharging doesn't have to be full recharging. If you get 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there while waiting in the airport staging area, that can greatly extend your range.

With that said, all of this kind of assumes that driving for Uber is something much different than what it typically actually is. It's generally not a long-term, full-time job. It's more often something that people do because they're desperate. Vehicle swap might make sense for a real taxi service, but Uber's main source of income is exploiting loopholes in labor and tax laws. (Actually I suppose their main source of income is in getting investors to invest in them, as they can't even make a profit at that.)

Generally, battery swap doesn't work. Because it requires standardizing the battery and not owning the battery, it removes one of the largest areas of competition in the field of electric cars. See the failure of Better Place.

It is possible when you are operating a large fleet, but that's not how Uber operates, they get drivers to own each individual car. An Uber which owned the fleet and hired drivers could swap batteries or vehicles.

I generally agree battery swap does not work, though better place started a business before there were many actual electric cars which doesn't help.
An airport though isn't a general case, it might actually be a place where fleet standardization is a useful thing, there are other players than Uber.
In the long run though, as range increases even that specific niche for battery swap would likely disappear.

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