Aug 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Ford-owned scooter company Spin makes "carbon negative" pledge

A person riding a scooter.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Spin, the Ford-owned electric scooter company, said Wednesday that it will find a way to cut more carbon emissions than it creates by 2025.

Why it matters: It's a fairly quick time frame, which means lots of tangible stuff needs to happen soon. It also comes as "micro-mobility" services are emerging as a wildcard in urban carbon emissions.

The big picture: In theory, electric scooters and bikes can enable avoided car trips. But they have their own emissions footprint — think energy used by vehicles that move them around for charging and maintenance, as well as scooter manufacturing and supply chains.

How it works: Pillars of Spin's emissions plan include...

  • Transitioning the vans that move the scooters around to plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
  • Recharging scooters with only renewable power.
  • Recycling and reuse of scooters no longer in the fleet.
  • Encouraging the use of scooters in a way that displaces car travel.

Threat level: A peer-reviewed 2019 study in Environmental Research Letters shows why there's work to do.

  • It found that a majority of the time, emissions linked to dockless scooters are greater than using diesel buses with high ridership and electric or regular bikes (and, of course, walking).
  • The study also showed that only about 34% of scooter trips in Raleigh, North Carolina, displaced travel by personal cars or ride-hailing, while 49% of riders would have walked or biked and 11% would have taken the bus.

What they're saying: Spin intends to "better quantify to what extent Spin is replacing automobile trip miles in cities."

  • "A critical aspect of achieving our carbon negative goal is accelerating mode shift. Spin looks forward to continuing to work with cities to create streets that are better designed for mobility outside of cars," said Kay Cheng, Spin's director of policy initiatives.

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