E-scooters are good for the environment. Well, not exactly

According to a new study, e-scooters can be worse than buses and bikes.

lime e-scooters
Lime e-scooters. Photo: Lime Facebook
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  • The climate-friendly narrative used by Grow, Lime and others is not exactly true;
  • According to a new study, e-scooters are worse for the environment than the modes of transportation they’re replacing.

Grow (the joint-venture between two companies, the Mexican Grin and the Brazilian Yellow) and Lime have been selling us the idea of greener cities if we use e-scooters. From a business point-view the potential of those micro mobility startups are huge, they exploit a market evaluated at $17 billions, according to Global View Research. But the climate-friendly narrative used by them is not exactly true.

According to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters and explored by Vox, on the whole, e-scooters are worse for the environment than the modes of transportation they’re replacing, such as buses, bikes and walking. 

Joseph Hollingsworth, Brenna Copeland, and Jeremiah X Johnson, researchers at North Carolina State University and responsible for the study, explain that while these e-scooters have no tailpipe emissions, a full consideration of the life cycle impacts is required to properly understand their environmental impacts. That’s what they did, starting with the review of studies on bicycles, electric bicycles, electric vehicles,  and other similar modes of transportation, already well researched over the years.

Basically, they found out that riding e-scooters actually produces more polluting gases per kilometer than traveling by bus, bike, and obviously on foot.

The biggest issue is not the supply or maintenance of such equipment, but rather the ecosystem that surrounds it and the fabrication processes. The materials used in the manufacture of scooters (wheels and batteries, for example), as well as the daily journey of picking up, recharging, and returning them to the street are the villains of this equation.

In some cities, warned the Brazilian site Neofeed, there is also the fact that many of the scooters are vandalised, needing to be replaced or repaired more often.

Although e-scooter technology is not at an early stage of development, warn scientists, the business model of shared, dockless e-scooters has emerged quickly in 2018 and is still evolving. That it is why this kind of study is so important: this use must be reconsidered and improved so that e-scooters can better meet their sustainable potential.

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