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This guy turned his Tesla into an Uber, but it didn’t go well

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  • This guy turned his Tesla into an Uber, but it didn’t go well

    In an interview Thursday on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Travis Kalanick spoke of his love for Teslas and the use of the luxury car among drivers for his ride-hailing app.

    “There are Uber Teslas out there, by the way,” Kalanick said.

    This spiked MarketWatch’s curiosity, so we set out to find Uber drivers providing rides in a Tesla TSLA, +0.71% electric car, which can retail from $75,000 to $105,000 for a Model S.

    We found Alan Zhang.

    Zhang owns a shipping company in Pasadena, Calif., and started offering Uber rides with his Model S at the end of August. Zhang drives for uberX, Uber’s basic car service, and UberPlus, the luxury car service, when he has time outside of work.

    His goal was to learn about Uber, the startup with a valuation topping $50 billion, which is the highest among the current crop of tech “unicorns.”

    “I’m a guy who’s curious about any new stuff,” Zhang said.

    Working as a driver has been difficult, Zhang said, but he’s seen immediate reactions from passengers when he pulls up in his Tesla. One passenger even made her friends come out to see the car when they pulled up to her destination, he said.

    “What amazes me is most of the people said, ’Wow, it’s a Tesla, first time I’ve rode in a Tesla’,” he said.

    So far, Zhang said he’s completed 102 trips and made $1,022.59, before Uber took its cut and without accounting for his own expenses. After the Uber fee — which can range from 20% to 28% depending on the city and when the driver signed up — Zhang calculates that he has collected 76 cents per mile. This is cut down to 70 cents when factoring in his Tesla’s cost of six cents per mile to drive.

    This may not be enough of a profit to keep driving for the service, Zhang said, and he’s pausing his driving while deciding whether to keep going.

    “I cannot spend money and my time [when] I’m not making a return,” Zhang said.

    Still, as Zhang saw, a Tesla can garner Uber drivers big enthusiasm, leading to high ratings from riders.

    While in Cincinnati on business, I rode in an uber tesla and it was glorious @StephenAtHome @Uber @travisk #LateShowwithStephenColbert

    — Joel Shulman (@joelman7) September 11, 2015
    My Uber driver just picked me up in a Tesla with The Crystal Method playing. He use to trade stocks. My man.

    — k e n d r a (@nicomilwaukee) June 16, 2014
    Beyond drivers, Kalanick reportedly told venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson that he wants to buy 500,000 of Tesla’s self-driving cars, should they be ready by 2020. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk may have his own designs on that type of service, however.

    So even if Zhang stops picking up passengers in his Model S for good, you may have better odds of hailing a Tesla in the coming years.

    from MarketWatch.com
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