Revel is coming for rideshare titans Uber and Lyft with a fleet of Teslas, but its new rideshare program has more going for it than all-electric cars: Revel plans to forego the gig economy and hire its own drivers.
The all-electric ride-hailing service is a new venture for Revel, which was founded in 2018 as a dockless e-moped share program. The New York-only service will operate in Manhattan for starters, but the company is also building New York’s largest EV charging station in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The fleet will be made up of 50 Model Y Teslas, painted Revel-blue, and will hit the streets in late May.
Because Revel will be owning the cars in order to customize each Tesla to its specifications, it will be treating drivers as actual employees, as opposed to Uber and Lyft, which treat drivers, who own their cars, as gig workers. Uber and Lyft have fought hard to keep its drivers designated as gig workers, spending upwards of $200 million on PR campaigns to ensure California’s Proposition 22 would pass. Revel’s entry into the space marks a shift away from the gig economy. Prop 22 proved to be unpopular due to the lack of health benefits, paid time off, and other perks for drivers who, had they been designated as standard employees, would have had them.
Co-founder and CEO Frank Reig’s mission has been to electrify urban transport, but he’s also concerned about treating workers fairly. Reig told TechCrunch that the money used to push Prop 22 could have gone to maintaining its workforce.
Reig is also concerned about safety. Revel will monitor its Teslas’ performance closely in addition to training drivers and giving safety scores. As a result, Reig says, insurance and liability costs will go down, and customers will likely pay what they would for an Uber.
From its very founding, Revel has focused on electric vehicles, but the methods behind delivering on its mission have constantly changed. In February, it introduced an e-bike subscription program for $99 per month. Its mopeds, meanwhile, run on a pay-per-minute basis. The company was forced to suspend moped service last July after two customers were killed. A handful of others were injured while riding the mopeds — since then, Revel has made helmets mandatory.
The company has gotten approval from New York’s TLC (Taxi & Limousine Commission), though the process isn’t finalized yet. A TLC spokesperson, however, told The Verge that “Revel is not licensed to operate for-hire transportation vehicles in NYC.” Critics are concerned that Revel will deplete yellow cabs’ already-low customer base — ridership for taxis is still down 80% to 90% since March 2020.