Chevy Bolt EV pre production
A Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicle on the assembly line March 16, 2016 at the General Motors Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Mich.  Courtesy of General Motors/Jeffrey Sauger

GM Is Giving Lyft Drivers First Dibs on Its New All-Electric Chevy Bolt

Jul 11, 2016

General Motors and ridesharing company Lyft are expanding a short-term car rental program to California and Colorado as the two companies deepen a partnership forged just seven months ago.

The expansion of its so-called Express Drive program was expected. Earlier this year, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told Fortune the service would eventually be offered in cities across the U.S.

The more remarkable piece: Lyft drivers will be among the first to get access to GM's all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which is going into full production later this year. This will be the first all-electric car to be added to Express Drive.

Fortune assistant managing editor Adam Lashinsky will talk to Zimmer as well as GM president Dan Ammann about their partnership at Fortune Brainstorm Tech, the annual technology and ideas summit that kicks off Monday afternoon in Aspen.

The Express Drive program, which first launched in Chicago in March, will expand to San Francisco this summer and into Los Angeles by the fall. Express Drive's California members will have access to the plug-in electric 2016 Chevrolet Volt and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Bolt will be made available once it goes into full production, which should be this fall, a GM spokesman told Fortune.

The program will expand to Denver by fall of 2016.

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The Express Drive program started in Chicago with 125 Chevy Equinox crossovers and then expanded to Baltimore, Boston, and Washington D.C. The program has been successful in reaching drivers who otherwise wouldn't have qualified to be a Lyft driver, both Zimmer and Ammann say.

Some 30% of new Lyft-driver applicants in Chicago have requested an Express Drive vehicle and Boston's program was fully subscribed in less than four days, according to GM. Rental terms will vary depending on the city and the vehicle, according to a GM spokesman. The rental fee covers the cost of insurance and maintenance, regardless of location.

When the program launched in Chicago, drivers there were able to rent a car for $99 a week and 20 cents a mile if they completed 40 rides or less a week. Once they surpassed that number, the per-mile charge dropped. If they completed 65 rides or more in a week, the rental was free.

The GM-Lyft partnership is part of the automaker’s long-term vision: A network of GM self-driving cars within Lyft’s service that can shuttle passengers around town without a driver. But with self-driving cars still years away, GM and Lyft are focusing their efforts on building out the service. And that means more drivers. Finding drivers who own a “qualifying” car is Lyft’s biggest obstacle to scaling its business, Zimmer has said.

Putting these drivers in brand new all-electric and plug-in electric hybrids has the added benefit of introducing them and their passengers to GM's newest products.

GM partners with Lyft to develop self-driving cars:

GM's partnership with Lyft could eventually overlap—if it's not already behind the scenes—with its development of self-driving car technology and its new car-sharing company Maven, which it launched in January.

GM has been working on self-driving car technology for years, but several recent moves have signaled it is ramping up efforts. GM created a team in January dedicated to the development of self-driving car technology within the company. Three months later, GM acquired self-driving tech startup Cruise Automation for more than $1 billion. The automaker also purchased the assets of Sidecar, a defunct ride-hailing company.

GM has openly talked about deploying self-driving cars with ride-hailing service Lyft. For now, Cruise Automation isn’t working with Lyft, according to previous interviews with GM spokespeople.

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