Those Electric Scooters Littering Cities Aren’t Very Green

When it comes to scooters, Millennials might have to find a new way to signal their virtue.

If riders use dockless electric scooters instead of their personal cars or Uber rides, then there’s no question that the scooters help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as measured by grams of CO2 because an assumed gas-powered vehicle is being displaced by a small electric motor.

But most riders don’t substitute scooters for cars; they pick up Lime, Bird, or Uber scooters instead of walking or riding a bike… and that’s a problem.

According to a new study published in the Institute of Physics Magazine, e-scooters emit the equivalent of 202g of carbon per passenger mile when you consider the materials and processes required to construct and deliver the scooter, the cost of collecting the scooters for recharging, and the recharging itself.  The carbon emission is heavily concentrated in manufacturing the scooter (50%), and the efforts to collect them each night for recharging (43%).

The emissions related to scooter use are highly sensitive to the useful life of a scooter, which the researchers estimated at two years.  Given how many end up in dumpsters, at the bottom of rivers, or run over by cars, two years might be a generous estimate.


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