Uber launches Model S fleet in Madrid

The company apparently hopes the premium EVs will help it build a less adversarial relationship with local regulators.

Uber has launched its first fleet of electric vehicles today in Madrid, Spain.

The ride-hailing company is starting with the luxury Model S sedan, rather than deploying cheaper shorter-range models such as the Nissan Leaf. The premium service is uniquely branded using the UberONE trademark.

"An electric premium service for a city that aspires to become the capital of the electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "An innovative proposal in an innovative city. A good mix right?"

Promotional materials propose the service as an upscale -- and quiet --transportation option for business meetings, a night on the town or a romantic date.

A Reuters report suggests the particular location choice is no coincidence. Pressure from traditional taxi interests pressured regulators to ban Uber's basic service several years ago. The company has since focused on UberX with properly licensed drivers.

Madrid's local government is said to led by an eco-conscious mayor. An Uber spokesperson claims the company wants to do things "that are in line with what the town hall wants." Importantly, the government manages limited license allocations for professional drivers.

"We would love to see more licenses awarded in the future, perhaps for greener cars so there could be more in circulation," the spokesperson added.

It is unclear if Madrid's UberONE service is also serving as a pilot program for a larger rollout with global ambitions.

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