More rideshare drivers to go electric after $20m grant

Hundreds more Australian rideshare drivers will be encouraged to get behind the wheel of an electric car after the federal government pledged $20 million for a vehicle subscription startup.

The funding for Splend will allow the company to offer an additional 500 electric vehicles to Australian rideshare drivers this year and accelerate the firm’s expansion beyond Sydney.

The announcement comes one week after Uber launched its electric vehicle service in Australia.

The $20 million investment will be the first from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to target rideshare drivers.

The corporation’s chief executive, Ian Learmonth, said that cohort had the potential to make a significant impact on transport emissions.

Australian drivers typically cover 11,000km in their cars each year, but rideshare drivers average between 50,000 and 60,000km.

“Due to the significant distance that rideshare vehicles travel, transitioning this fleet to EVs marks a significant opportunity to cut transport emissions,” Mr Learmonth said.

“This is an exciting change to the way Australians can enjoy the convenience of rideshare services while having a real impact towards achieving zero emissions in our transport sector.”

Splend chief executive Chris King told AAP the country could cut transport emissions faster by helping professional drivers swap vehicles and the investment would be used to offer a bigger range of models.

“We think we’re going at a good pace, but EVs are expensive – it’s no secret – and the financial support will enable us to go a bit faster and price vehicles at a more attractive rate than we otherwise could,” he said.

“By the end of the year, we hope to branch out to key markets in Australia outside Sydney – we’ll be bringing forward our plans.”

Splend initially offered 500 Polestar 2 vehicles on subscription to Sydney rideshare drivers, but Mr King said the company would add another 500 vehicles to its fleet.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the investment would build on other incentives, such as the fringe benefits tax cut, to ensure more new vehicle purchases were electric.

“By encouraging more EVs in rideshare fleets, we’ll be able to reduce transport emissions in Australia,” he said.

“Fleets make up around half of all vehicle sales, so this initiative is a big deal as well as boosting the market for second-hand EVs.”

Under the terms of the investment, Splend will provide information about battery performance and second-hand vehicle sales to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to be shared with fleet operators.

Uber Australia general manager Dom Taylor welcomed the government’s investment and said the rideshare giant looked forward to more policies to encourage manufacturers to bring more zero-emissions vehicles to the country.

“We hope to see this momentum build and the next step is for the government to introduce a robust fuel-efficiency standard that will bring Australia in line with our global counterparts,” he said.

The funding announcement came during the first meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Electric Vehicles and Future Fuels Transport group outside Parliament House in Canberra.

The group, co-chaired by Labor’s Michelle Ananda-Rajah and independent Monique Ryan, includes more than 30 MPs and has pledged to hold public events to support Australia’s move to electric transport.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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