Tourism causes around eight percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions (Nature Climate Change). And the impacts of tourism on the environment are diverse: Besides the particular climate-damaging emissions from transportation, the consumption of water, the use of land and goods, waste and the loss of biodiversity also play an important role. 40 percent of the worldwide carbon dioxide emissions of tourism is due to air travel, 32 percent to car traffic and 21 percent to accommodation (Umweltbundesamt). It seems natural for travel companies to make every effort to limit their environmental impacts. The premium chauffeur service Blacklane is one leading example how to travel sustainably without making compromises.
As frequent travelers, co-founders Jens Wohltorf and Frank Steuer recognized the need for a universal, global and professional chauffeur service. Their vision: a smarter system to book and manage trips – in an affordable, reliable and efficient way. In 2011, the Berlin-based company Blacklane was born. Since then, the company has grown into an international business with 400 employees and offices in Singapore, Los Angeles, Dubai and Brisbane. In more than 50 countries around the world, Blacklane offers high-quality rides at fair, fixed and all-inclusive rates. Whether it is inner-city rides, hourly bookings, intercity rides or airport transfers – the company strives to take the stress from customers’ journeys by saving time, prioritizing health and safety, and providing top-quality service. All chauffeurs are commercially licensed and insured. They offer full discretion to give guests space and privacy. Blacklane rides can be scheduled on the website, via mobile apps or via distribution and channel partners.
Since 2017, all trips across all of Blacklane’s 50 countries are 100% CO2 neutral as part of their global carbon offset program, which is the first in the industry. Additionally, Blacklane completed the next step by offsetting the CO2 emissions from the entire company’s operations, which makes Blacklane’s business entirely carbon-neutral. That includes their electricity use in their offices, their natural gas use, flights, train journeys and taxi trips around the world, hotel stays as well as water consumption, including wastewater usage. By the end of 2021, Blacklane plans to push further ahead with its green initiatives commitment by offsetting the entirety of its carbon emissions since it was founded in 2011.
To compensate their carbon dioxide footprint, ergo to save emissions elsewhere, Blacklane uses the climate compensation program Carbon Footprint Ltd., the U.K. government’s provider to offset ministerial travel carbon dioxide emissions. Every quarter, Carbon Footprint calculates the CO2 emitted by Blacklane rides globally. The equivalent of these emissions is used to support the Mirkala Wind Power Project in Pune, India. Blacklane’s investment helps maintain 40 wind turbine generators that contribute to the country’s power grid for its Northern, Eastern, Western, and North-Eastern regions, without any fossil fuel consumption. As a founding member of the World Alliance of Efficient Solutions, an organization dedicated to promoting environmentally and financially sustainable products and services, Blacklane has started and implemented numerous sustainability initiatives within the company. Not only the business, but every customer contributes to carbon-neutral transportation when traveling.
Besides regular fossil-fueled vehicles, Blacklane offers emissions-free chauffeured services with the Tesla Model S and Model X, the Audi e-tron, and Jaguar I-PACE. Soon, its fleet will have the Mercedes-Benz EQC and EQV. Blacklane will rapidly add more electric vehicles as it makes them the new normal global chauffeur service.
Blacklane is committed to protecting the environment and promoting the development of environmentally friendly energy solutions. As a verified member of the non-profit organization Leaders for Climate Action, the company wants to unite with other companies committing to business models powered by renewable energy.
Their latest investment, the majority stake acquisition of Havn, London’s first all-electric chauffeur service, is a further steppingstone towards making sustainable and safe travel options possible. With its expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) into Greater London later this year and the trial of a petrol-free street in London’s financial district, the city of London is the perfect place for Blacklane to continue building on its sustainable practices and to offer more zero-emission rides, giving travelers the ability to make more safe and sustainable travel decisions.
Blacklane is leading the ride services industry with its global commitment to carbon-neutral rides and is an excellent example to show how to balance the needs of worldwide travelers with the climate and energy needs of the planet.
Interview with Dr. Jens Wohltorf and Frank Steuer
aware_: What was your intention or inspiration when founding Blacklane in 2011?
Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Frank and I saw the opportunity to take the stress out of travel with a global chauffeur service. We knew that we could reduce the inefficiencies in chauffeured rides, and therefore lower the cost and improve the environment.
From our founding, we wanted to fill the unused capacity in local chauffeur vehicles. In non-pandemic times, millions of chauffeured vehicles perform airport transfers with a guest in one direction but without passengers in the other direction. We wanted to fill those empty rides with travelers and stop burning gas, adding traffic and wearing down vehicles unnecessarily.
Our goal was to make those new rides consistently high-quality and lower-priced worldwide.
aware_: How do you combine functionality and sustainability?
Frank Steuer: We think of it as taking care of both people and the planet. The people side means safe and qualified chauffeurs and adding new health and safety measures when needed, like for COVID.
For the planet, the first step is compensating for emissions that accompany our business. But we must do more. That is why we are a carbon-neutral organization each year, and why we will be carbon neutral for our entire history later this year.
However, we can still do better. Thanks to new chauffeur-quality electric vehicles from several automakers, we will begin transitioning our fleet away from combustion engine vehicles. It’s good to offset carbon emissions, but it’s even better to not create them in the first place.
aware_: Ride services show a way towards a greener and more sustainable way of traveling – what does Blacklane do differently in the competition with other car service companies?
Frank Steuer: Sustainability is who we are. Taking the stress out of travel includes reducing our environmental impact. We made the first commitment to offset carbon emissions of all global rides and business operations starting in 2017. We’re especially proud that this was a grass-roots initiative that came from a cross-departmental team.
We then added electric vehicles in 30 cities in 2018. With the investment into Havn, we will make electric vehicles the norm in chauffeur service.
aware_: Could Blacklane become a service with electric vehicles only?
Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Absolutely. Emissions-free vehicles must become the norm in the chauffeured industry. We are starting with electric vehicles since they are the best option today. We will also monitor hydrogen vehicles and other new technologies, and we will add them to our fleet if it makes sense.
Chauffeur service will electrify faster than ride-hailing. Premium automakers are bringing more EVs to market and the chauffeur industry adopts new vehicle technology first. Chauffeurs will find that EVs lower daily costs, reduce inside and outside noise, and offer the latest assistive driving technology.
by Marie Klimczak