Escooter rentals are not as green as you think | MarketingwithAnoy

Like a balm spring evening descended to western Paris, I was to go through the city to my apartment, about three miles away. The streets were crowded so I hesitated to take a taxi and I did not want to take the metro because it was hot and the station was far away. So I rented a battery-powered scooter that was available on the street and drove through the traffic right to my front door. The trip was fun, not to mention affordable and fast. It was green too, I assumed: Escooters do not emit fumes, so it had to be, right?

The rollout of a massive number of shared scooters is built on this premise: Instead of a gas-guzzling car, take an electric two-wheeled car. Save the planet and time. Lemon, which operates worldwide, but mainly in Europe and North America, aims to “build a future where transportation is shared, affordable and carbon-free.” Another operator, Birdsuggests that users can “cut down on CO2– one trip at a time. “

But research shows that rental scooters have not actually reduced carbon emissions in cities. It’s complicated, says Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. There are plenty of circumstances where scooter programs can be green, he says, but it depends on how and where they work.

Love them or hate them, rental scooters have flooded the world’s largest cities. People in the United States took an estimate 86 million travel on shared scooters in 2019, before pandemic disruption saw almost all modes of transportation fall. Even in Covid 2020 – the most recent year for which data is available – people across the United States, Canada and Mexico have managed to 25 million trips. You can find scooter rentals in hundreds of cities on both sides of the Atlantic, including Seattle, London, Romeand Kiev. So are they decreasing in New York and increasingly in cities in Asia.

The first of these programs was launched by the micro-mobility company Bird in Santa Monica, California, in September 2017. Others quickly followed suit and were an instant success. However, as the market expanded, there were few thorough analyzes of the environmental impact of these rental programs. Escooters were assumed to have an insignificant CO2 footprint, which helped companies raise huge investments. In May 2019, there were 14 scooter companies in operation in 97 U.S. cities.

To assess the environmental impact of these programs, account for the emissions of scooters over their full life cycle: the production of the materials and components included in each scooter; the manufacturing process; shipping scooters to wherever they are to be used; collection, charging and redistribution of scooters; and disposal of them. When you do, it can paint a bleak picture.

According to one 2019 survey performed in the US state of North Carolina, shared scooters manufacture 202 grams of CO2 passenger mile over their entire life cycle – more than one electric moped (119 grams), electric bicycle (40 grams), bicycle (8 grams) and even though a diesel bus (82 grams), provided it has a high mileage. Although the study showed that scooters produce lower carbon emissions than a shared car (415 grams), only 34 percent of the analyzed scooter trips replaced a trip that would have been taken in one.

In contrast, almost half of the trips would have been a bike ride or a walk, and 11 percent would have been bus rides. 7 percent of the trips would not have happened without scooters at all. Because the additional emissions of the scooters were greater than any gains from car trips that were not taken, the study concluded that scooter rental programs increase transportation emissions in general.

These results were amplified by a 2020 examination in Paris, which concluded that the city’s joint scooters added 13,000 tonnes of additional greenhouse gases to the city’s CO2 footprint over the course of a year, corresponding to a small town’s total annual emissions. Again, scooter rides often replaced journeys made on modes of transport with lower emissions.

Earlier this year, a study by Daniel Reck and Kay Axhausen at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich concluded that a shared scooter on average creates 51 grams more CO2 kilometers than the means of transport it replaces. “The bottom line is that shared scooters are currently damaging the climate,” Reck said said in an interview with the German newspaper The time.

A big part of this comes down to bad design. During the early days of scooter rental, the industry implemented slightly modified versions of models that were sold directly to consumers. Made in China by companies like Xiaomi and Segway-Ninebot, they were not prepared for the hardships of the sharing economy. The battery housing was often not even waterproof, so in wetter places batteries would ignite and there was no protection against vandalism and theft. Where scooters were a novelty, they were often destroyed. “The first round of vehicles was not really designed for this industry,” said Scott Rushforth, Chief Vehicle Officer for Bird.

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