- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Ride-hailing service Uber has announced a plan to boost electric vehicles among Uber drivers in Portland and for those drivers to promote electric vehicles to their customers - and that also could mean a boost for Eugene electric vehicle manufacturer Arcimoto.

Uber officials said Wednesday that the program is the first of its kind in the United States, and it’s loosely based on a program introduced in London last summer.

About 100 of Uber’s 6,000 active Portland drivers use electric vehicles, Uber officials said, adding that their goal is to add hundreds more.

“We’re starting this initiative here because Portland and the State of Oregon are national leaders in the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles,” said Bryce Bennett, Uber general manager for Oregon.

Arcimoto plans to be part of Uber’s Portland marketing campaign this summer. That is also when Arcimoto plans to start delivering its Signature Series electric vehicles to customers, Arcimoto founder Mark Frohnmayer said.

Arcimoto vehicles are the futuristic looking three-wheeled vehicles, with motorcycle handlebar-style steering and two seats. The base model sells for $11,900. Arcimoto is building six vehicles now in Eugene, with plans to manufacture up to 100 by the end of the year, Frohnmayer said.

Uber is making a big move to drive electric vehicle adoption among Uber’s drivers and its customers,” Frohnmayer said Wednesday from Portland, after participating in Uber’s announcement.

The program will involve Uber’s car leasing arm and promoting electric vehicles to Uber drivers and riders.

“Everyone who rides in one of their vehicles up here in this program will get more information about the advantages of the electric drive and ways they can try it out themselves,” Frohnmayer said. “That’s how Arcimoto will plug in this summer, as part of that marketing program,” he said, declining to provide more details.

Frohnmayer founded Arcimoto in 2007, driven to develop a comfortable, affordable more environmentally sustainable alternative to a car for quick trips around town.

Arcimoto is building the first Signature Series vehicles at its 5,000-square-foot space in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood.

Frohnmayer said that he plans to announce the company’s new production space in the next few weeks.

“We’re in the process of finalizing our production location,” he said. “We can’t talk about where the facility is.”

Frohnmayer told The Register-Guard in late 2015 that he was looking for 50,000 square feet of production space, preferably in the Eugene area.

Arcimoto’s goal is to build up to 100 vehicles this year, preparing it to scale up manufacturing in 2018, he said.

Arcimoto has 18 full-time employees.

“(Employment) will certainly go up when we hit full production,” Frohnmayer said.

He alluded to Wednesday’s Uber announcement as being the first of several upcoming announcements of Arcimoto’s alliances with influential partners.

“We’re going to have so much news in the next three months, it will make your head spin.” Frohnmayer said.

Uber’s Portland initiative comes after a rash of controversies in recent months, including a former female engineer accusing the company of sexism and harassment, CEO Travis Kalanick being caught on video ranting at an Uber driver, and the departure of several key executives, including Uber’s communications chief.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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