Spin, Byrd, Lime - If you live in a major U.S. city, chances are you’re familiar with these popular Electric Scooter companies. In the summer of 2018, this piece of alternative transit technology swept the nation with its promise of simplified short distance travel. Love it or hate it, Electric Scooters have joined the conversation on urban transit, alongside bikeshare and rideshare programs.
Two years on, it’s time to ask a different question of the Electric Scooter selling point – how sustainable are they, really? With just two years of data to work with, studies on electric scooters look less than ideal for the environment.
The verdict? Electric scooters are responsible for a higher carbon footprint than “a standard bus with high ridership, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, or walking” (1). The primary flaw in the electric scooter model is their low lifecycle. The average electric scooter now lasts only one to two months on the street, as their batteries wane and components degrade quickly over heavy use. This means rapid extraction of raw materials, shipping of product overseas, and the associated carbon footprint of those processes.
Scooters also face sustainability challenges in the process overnight charging, a side of the industry that is unseen to most users. At night, teams of “juicers” collect the electric scooters lying around in public areas to be recharged at their homes. This creates a cycle of inefficient gas consumption, where drivers must zigzag around the city to collect depleted scooters left on sidewalks. Additionally, the scooters must be fully charged regardless of their remaining battery level, which can cause undue draw on the grid in powering devices that require little recharge.
Whether or not this technology is an effective option for alternative transit, electric scooters companies have a great deal of work to do if they hope for their products to become sustainable.
- Samuel, Sigal. “We Regret to Inform You That Scooters Aren't Actually Good for the Environment.” Vox. Vox, August 8, 2019. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/8/8/20759062/electric-scooter-environment-climate-change-bird-lime
- Free Commercial Use Photos: Pixabay “Electric Scooter” https://pixabay.com/images/search/electric%20scooter/