Uber is making Portland the first U.S. site for a program intended to add hundreds of electric-vehicle drivers to its ranks, the ride-hailing company announced Wednesday.

“We’re launching this initiative in Portland because the city and the state of Oregon are national leaders in the transition to clean energy, fuels and vehicles,” the company’s general manager for Oregon, Bryce Bennett, said in a media release.

The program is set to kick off with a Wednesday event at the World Trade Center, near a Portland General Electric row of “Electric Avenue” charging stations often used by Uber drivers.

Uber isn't the first big company to promote electrics in Portland. Daimler's Car2go once had electrics in its Portland fleet, adding 30 in 2012, though it later phased them out, citing a lack of charging infrastructure.

But then this past December, BMW's ReachNow car-rental service added 30 i3 electrics here.

Uber has steered over and around a variety of PR potholes in recent months, but it brought together several organizations and companies on the Portland EV program.

Leading the way is Drive Oregon, which is morphing from a state-sponsored EV-industry support initiative to a self-supporting nonprofit with a wider regional focus on cutting-edge mobility – and, in a matter of weeks, a new name, “Forth.”

“This is exactly the kind of public/private partnership that we need,” the group’s executive director, Jeff Allen, said in a statement. Allen said the Uber program will “quickly spark a major boost in electric cars on Portland’s streets, clean up our air, and expose thousands more people to this great technology.”

One way that could happen, Uber said, is through an aspect of the program called EV Ambassadors, in which Uber will incentivize drivers to “help educate riders” about the virtues of EVs. The company will also try to get more drivers behind the wheel of EVs through its Xchange Leasing arm.

Uber said about 100 of its approximately 6,000 drivers in the Portland area now use electric vehicles.

Another partnership is intended to make Cynergy E-Bikes available for rent or lease to people who do UberEATS deliveries.

The company said the Portland program is “loosely modeled” on one the company began last year in London.

Other partners in Portland include the Black Parent Initiative, Eugene-based EV startup Arcimoto and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

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