Electric scooters aren’t as green as they seem
Electric scooters are often worse for climate change when compared to the transportation methods they’re displacing, according to what is likely the first-ever peer-reviewed study on the new trend.
Why it matters: E-scooter use is skyrocketing in the United States and around the world. To the extent this trend continues and actions aren’t taken to offset the impact, a seemingly green mode of transport will only add to the herculean task of combating climate change.
Where it stands: E-scooters don't emit carbon, therefore most of the detrimental climate impact comes from making the scooters (in China, primarily) and moving them around once they’re in cities (usually by gasoline-powered cars), according to the study by North Carolina State University published Friday in the Environmental Research Letters journal.
What they’re saying: The report’s “results show that dockless e-scooters consistently result in higher life cycle global warming impacts relative to the use of a bus with high ridership, an electric bicycle, or a bicycle per passenger-mile traveled. However, choosing an e-scooter over driving a personal automobile with a fuel efficiency of 26 miles per gallon results in a near universal decrease in global warming impacts.”
- Yes, but: Roughly half of e-scooter riders say they would have walked or biked if it weren’t for the scooter (greener options), with just a third saying they would have taken a car instead, according to surveys cited in the study.
- That means e-scooters are the less climate-friendly option about two-thirds of the time.
One level deeper: The study finds that the global warming impact of an e-scooter, including how it's made and during its use, is equal to about half the impact of an average gasoline-powered car per mile traveled.
What we're watching: The authors recommend e-scooter companies do the following:
- Make sure scooters last as long as they can (the more they get destroyed/vandalized, the more materials needed).
- Use more energy-efficient vehicles to pick-up and drop them off, and streamline the process.
Go deeper: Scooter companies meteoric rise in one chart