The Environmental Impact of Electric Scooters

Last-mile distribution is a tricky task to solve. A bouquet of flowers ordered in London could grow on a farm in Colombia and ship 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to England within an efficient system…

But then, to arrive at the house in London –traveling the “last-mile” of the journey– requires an individualized schedule, route, and delivery person. Similarly, last-mile mobility remains a tricky problem.

We often spend a disproportionate amount of time driving just a mile or two in cities. You may get stuck in a traffic jam or have trouble finding parking, all while burning CO2 in non-electric vehicles.

A New Mobility Solution

Image: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty

Steve Jobs believed that electric scooters would make a bigger impact than personal computers and that cities would be redesigned around them. No joke.

And Jeff Bezos was a supporter and investor in the original Segway scooter released in 2001.

Technological innovation has given way to the current scooter models embraced by new mobility startups Lime and Bird. But the real catalyst for the rapid adoption of scooter riding comes from the companies’ business model innovation.

The scooters are dockless, meaning that people can leave them anywhere, which is extremely convenient for last-mile mobility. At night, when the scooters are out of juice, people can pick them up and get paid by the companies to charge them at home.

Now electric scooters are popping up in cities across the U.S. and even in Europe. Uber and Lyft, the ones that started the rideshare revolution, are set to launch their own scooter platforms.

Not only do the scooters promote active outdoor lifestyles but they also advance sustainability.

How Scooters Could Change the World

Image: Luz Lazo/The Washington Post

According to the Lime app, every mile traveled mitigates roughly 350 grams of carbon. Let’s imagine a world where riding scooters is the norm and make some projections…

Say a scooter runs for 10 miles a day on average. That equates to a daily reduction of 3,500 grams of carbon per scooter.

A city with 10,000 scooters would then reduce emissions by 35,000,000 grams, or 35 metric tons daily.

Scale that up across 500 cities, which is approximately the number of cities in the world with more than one million people, and we’re now mitigating 17,500 metrics tons of carbon each day.

Let’s factor in the amount of carbon burned for the electricity to charge those five million scooters:

Producing electricity for five million scooters around the world would emit 370 metric tons, which is less than 2% of CO2 produced by the same number of cars.

You can see why electricity is so much more environmentally friendly than gas.

With that electricity subtracted, the net amount of mitigated carbon equals 17,130 metric tons.

Let’s reduce this number by 20% for people who would have walked and for chargers picking up scooters in their cars. Now we’re looking at a total amount of 13,700 metric tons of CO2 mitigated by not driving a car.

That’s the equivalent of taking 105,000 cars off the roads around the world, each day.

So there you have it. Steve Jobs was once again ahead of his time. Electric scooters hold potential to make a worldwide impact. But will that actually happen? What is your take on the electric scooter revolution? Tell us here!

Act on Climate

Image: ChopValue

You know how chopsticks are a big waste of materials? Well, one company got creative and produces furniture products using some of the 100,000 chopsticks that are thrown away in Vancouver each day.

ChopValue customizes solutions that range from tabletops to wall patterns for sustainable patrons. Check out their website for examples of their work and to get your own bamboo furniture:

Join the Conversation

Are electric scooters the cleantech champion we need or too impractical to become a major part of everyday mobility?