The city of Madrid in Spain already has one of the biggest fleet of all-electric taxis in the world. Earlier this year, we reported on a local taxi company adding 110 Nissan LEAFs to its fleet as the local government was taking measures to improve the increasingly poor air quality in the city.
Uber has had problems operating in Madrid in the past with its unlicensed drivers, but now the company has decided not only to use licensed drivers, but also to have them drive all-electric Tesla Model S sedans.
The company made the announcement yesterday with the launch of a new service called ‘UberOne’. The service combines the use of the Model S and a complementary Microsoft Surface tablet for passengers.
Carles Lloret, managing director of Uber for southern Europe, told Reuters that they hope the new service will help the company get in the good graces of environmentally-conscious Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena:
“We want to do things that are in line with what the town hall wants,”
In its press release for ‘UberOne’, Uber talked about a “global launch” for the service starting in Madrid.
The company wrote about the name of the new service:
Now we only lacked the name. It had to be a name that never had used before in Uber, because this is a global launch. It had to be a name to talk about the unique experience that is traveling aboard a Tesla Model S. In short, a name for the first: UberONE.
It opens the door for a potentially broader deployment of Tesla vehicles or other electric vehicles in Uber’s fleet. Earlier this year, the company launched an all-electric fleet pilot project – starting with 20 Nissan LEAFs in London.
Uber has shown interest in buying Tesla vehicles in the past, but it had more to do with the potential for self-driving than for the vehicles being battery-powered and environmentally friendly.
Last year, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early Tesla investor Steve Juvertson recalled a conversation he had with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick:
Travis recently told me that in 2020, if Telsas are autonomous, he’d want to buy all of them. He said all 500,000 of estimated 2020 production, I’d want them all, but he couldn’t get a return call from Elon.
Of course, Uber has since also launched its own effort to develop self-driving technology.
They released a quick promo video for UberONE in Madrid: