Uber to branch out with hybrid car service

The company plans to charge rates that are just 10 percent to 20 percent more than standard taxi fares, according to a report.

A map showing Uber usage in San Francisco. Darker red means more trips.
A map showing Uber usage in San Francisco. Darker red means more trips. Uber

Uber, a company that lets people request private car service in select cities, is trying to appeal to a less-affluent customers by using non-luxury, hybrid vehicles, according to a new report.

According to Uber, which spoke with The New York Times in a story published yesterday, the hybrid service will kick off in San Francisco and New York on Wednesday. The cars will cost customers 10 percent to 25 percent more than a standard taxi fare between two locations. According to the Times, its premium service typically costs customers between 40 percent and 100 percent more.

Uber is one of the many startups in San Francisco trying to connect the mobile and offline worlds. The company lets customers in cities where its service is available request a car from their iPhone or Android-based smartphone. Those using other platforms can send an SMS to Uber to request a car. From there, a driver who is part of Uber's network picks the person up in a luxury car. All payments are automatically charged to a credit card.

Uber caught the attention of venture capitalists back in December, raising $32 million in a funding round led by Menlo Ventures. Bezos Expeditions and Goldman Sachs also participated in the round. The funding was announced in tandem with news that the company had launched its service in Paris.

With cheaper car support now on its way, Uber can open itself up "to the masses," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told the Times yesterday. Not appealing to the mainstream has proven an issue for Uber, which needs wider customer support in order to grow. Until now, the service has largely been reserved for those who both know about it and have the cash to spend on private car service.

So, why hybrids? According to the Times, it's all about cost-savings. Hybrids, of course, cost less to fuel, so the savings can be passed on to customers.

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