Electric scooters: not so eco-friendly after all?

Paris: E-scooters touted as zero-carbon urban transport are
flooding city streets worldwide, but just how green they are
remains an open question.The companies — from multinationals to
local start-ups — distributing them insist the omnipresent
two-wheel vehicles are a boon for the environment and a curb on
global warming.”Bird was founded to help create a cleaner and more
hospitable world that prioritises people over cars,” the American
firm, one of the global leaders in e-scooters, says on its
website.”Scooters cut the use of vehicles and reduce the volume of
traffic on the road,” it said. “They also help reduce pollution and
improve air quality.”Shared scooters that do not require docking
ports can be driven door-to-door, avoid stressful searches for
parking spaces, and have zero-emission motors.On paper, they have
the potential to radically reduce urban car traffic: 70 percent of
car trips between home and work in France, for example, are five
kilometres (three miles) or less, according to the French National
Institute for Statistics and Economic Research
(INSEE).”Micromobility could theoretically encompass all passenger
trips of less than eight kilometres (5 miles), which account for as
much as 50 to 60 percent of today´s total passenger miles
travelled in China, the European Union, and the United States,”
consulting firm McKinsey said in a report.In the US, riders made
nearly 40 million trips on shared scooters last year, according to
the National Association of City Transportation Officials.Lime, a
major player financed by Uber and Google-parent Alphabet, found
that roughly one in every three Lime rides in 26 cities around the
world replaces a trip by car.”From this shift, we estimate that our
riders have avoided 15 million miles (24 km) of car travel and
prevented 6,220 metric tons of carbon emissions” over a two-year
period, the company noted.But do e-scooters live up to all the
hype?With regard to Lime´s claims, a survey by research group 6t
of 4,500 commuters in Paris, Lyon and Marseilles revealed that only
19 percent used scooters to go to work or school — more than 40
percent of usage was by out-of-town visitors.Without access to
e-scooters, 44 percent of respondents said they would have walked,
12 percent said they would have biked, and 30 percent would have
used public transport.Cars barely entered into the picture.”But
this doesn´t mean that we should get rid of e-scooters —
absolutely not!”, said Jeremie Almosni, head of mobility at the
Ademe, the French government agency for energy efficiency.”The fact
that half of usage is recreational is striking,” he acknowledged.
“But at least this favours a more mixed use of transport. It´s
definitely a way to get people out-and-about more, and perhaps a
way of encouraging them to give up cars.”There is also a lot of
uncertainty as to the lifespan of shared e-scooters, which varies
with hardware and intensity of usage.It´s a key question, because
how long they last is a major part of what determines environmental
impact.”As of today, it is impossible to say whether e-scooters are
good or bad for the environment because we lack long-term
statistics on life cycles,” said Denis Benita, a transportation
engineer at Ademe.One study from Louisville, Kentucky put the
average life span at 28 days. Another said it was closer to three
months.Across what has already become a multi-billion dollar
industry, companies are trying to make the machines more robust,
and thus more profitable.”An electric scooter lasts twice as long
today as when we first came to France in June 2018,” a Lime France
spokesman told AFP.The company also recycles the hardware — “every
piece, down to the last screw, is reused,” according to the
spokesman.The learning curve has been equally sharp for Bird, said
Kenneth Schlenker, head of Bird France.”We´ve only been operating
in cities for about a year and a half,” he told AFP. “We´ve
learned a lot in that time.”By consolidating parts from engines,
for example, the company plans to expand their life span two years,
he noted.The company aims to make travel by Bird carbon neutral by
reducing emissions and through carbon credits.”Batteries are
another issue.The electric scooter and motorcycle market — which
could be worth $14 billion by 2025, according to Markets &
Research — has mostly shifted to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries,
which are lighter and last longer than other kinds.But lithium is
not problem-free either: it poses an environmental risk related to
both sourcing and waste.Lime has recently partnered with a French
company that claims it can recycle 70 percent of spent batteries.
Source: FS – All-News2-Economy
Electric scooters: not so eco-friendly after all?