Uber to go all-electric in London, awaits Khashoggi murder facts

LONDON (Reuters) - Uber aims for London to be the first city where all of its taxis will be electric in 2025, with a clean air fee added to rides to help drivers go green, a part of efforts to cut pollution in the British capital, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Dara Khosrowshahi also said Uber was awaiting the full facts on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before deciding whether that would affect the Saudi involvement in the ride-hailing service.

Like many other Western business and political leaders deeply disturbed by Khashoggi’s killing, Khosrowshahi pulled out of a Saudi investment conference that began on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has invested in Uber and its managing director sits on the app’s board.

Uber [UBER.UL], which lost its London license last year and only recently regained it, has picked the British capital to roll out its electric vehicle plans.

“The Mayor of London has set out a bold vision to tackle air pollution in the capital and we’re determined to do everything we can to back it,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

The Silicon Valley-based firm has said it is on track to float next year but, asked about the role of Saudi investment going forward in the light of Khashoggi’s murder, Khosrowshahi said he needed initially to know what happened.

“First we want to get the facts and we will make that determination about how we go forward, how we raise money going forward, what our post-IPO board make-up is,” he told reporters.

The rapidly-expanding firm is simultaneously trying to appease regulators in key established markets such as London as well as expand into new areas as it pursues more growth before going public.

After a report that Uber was looking into acquiring British food courier Deliveroo, Khosrowshahi said the firm was very happy with its Uber Eats equivalent but is talking to many players around the world. “Is something going to happen with Deliveroo? Who knows?” he said.

Deliveroo has said it is not for sale.

He also said its Uber Works initiative, which could provide temporary staff such as waiters, was only at a “quite preliminary” stage.

And, following a media report that the firm was seeking minority stakes in its self-driving car business Advanced Technologies Group, Khosrowshahi said: “Going forward it’s going to be part of the family. How we fund it, what the capitalization looks like is something that we are ultimately open to, but it is not an area of focus right now.”

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Alistair Smout and Mark Heinrich