Just because battery-powered scooters don’t belch pollution out of a tailpipe may not mean they’re as “eco-friendly” as some have assumed. The actual climate impact of these type of vehicles depends heavily on how they’re made, what they’re replacing, and how long they last. This is why researchers at North Carolina State University decided to conduct a life-cycle assessment that tallied up the emissions from making, shipping, charging, collecting, and disposing of scooters.
The study concludes that on roughly two-thirds of the time, scooter rides generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative. And those increased emissions were greater than the gains from the car rides not taken. Dockless scooters generally produce more greenhouse-gas emissions per passenger mile than a standard diesel bus with high ridership, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, a bicycle—or, of course, a walk.
The electricity used to charge the vehicles is one of the smallest contributors to the product’s emissions. Fully half come from the raw materials and manufacturing process. The other major share of emissions comes from the additional fleet of vehicles needed to navigate around the city each day, collecting scooters strewn across yards and sidewalks. Another factor is the lifespan of the scooter itself as the study found that if the vehicles lasted for two years instead of a few months, it would cut average emissions by about 30% per mile—and make scooters the cleaner option as much as 96% of the time.
Read the study here.