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Electric scooters aren't as eco-friendly as they seem, study finds (theguardian.com)
34 points by logifail 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

"...traveling by scooter produces more greenhouse gas emissions per mile than traveling by bus, bicycle, moped or on foot"

I can't find the source study - but even so I'd have to see some caveats on bus + moped (2 cycle are brutal pollution wise).

I know there's a lot of hate for e-scooters, but I really like them. They're a nice transportation option that supplants taking uber/lyft in many cases and definitely an improvement over cars.

It looks like the study is linked? https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab2da8

Also, it includes the scooter company driving around at the end of the day to pick up all the scooters. Obviously not applicable if you are using your own personal scooter.

And using a scooter instead of a car means traveling far fewer miles and covering far fewer square miles of your land in car parks, so other people don't have to travel as far either.

There are situations where I've considered using an e-scooter because existing infrastructure is insufficient or just plain unreliable. If a bus or two or three are cancelled and I'm really frustrated, even a car seems like a great solution, regardless of environmental cost. E-scooters seem like a decent alternative (depending on how reliable and environmentally friendly they actually are). I'd even consider buying my own, but it seems Germany is lagging behind in allowing e-scooters in public (the only two models that are purchasable that are also street legal cost 2000+ Euros).

Prior discussion:


Something I pointed out yesterday is that these articles are focusing on greenhouse gases. We still have a major pollution problem in large cities. Reducing this alone makes scooters worth it, IMHO.

Shared electric scooters are undoubtedly pretty damned dirty, due to the very short working life of the scooter and the fuel use in collecting and returning the scooters.

Owning an electric scooter looks pretty damned clean - ~200kg/CO2e to manufacture the scooter, plus 0 - 300g to generate enough electricity to charge the battery.

Still 1000x better than cars, and anything that gets people out of their cars is great.

Expect you many need to literally manufacture 1,500x as many scooters. ‘The average vehicle went 163.2 miles over 92 trips during its lifetime’ https://qz.com/1561654/how-long-does-a-scooter-last-less-tha...

So, odd as it may seem, electric cars may be better for the environment.

The average bicycle isn't any better. Huffy knew this and purposely designed their bikes for a lifetime of 50 miles. We should get rid of them too.

I’ve never seen any bikes that has a lifetime of 50 miles. But I’m all for anti-planned obsolescence laws. Maybe just forcing manufacturers to put the expected life of the device next to it would help ?

How exactly does one go about this? Is it built from paper? Has Silicon Valley actually convinced themselves that bicycles are bad for the environment now?

This idea fails to account for MANY car externalities, like the effects of paving the roads and parking lots they need, and the massive environmental opportunity cost associated with those spaces. Scooters are net positive if they get any number of people out of cars. Yes they're worse than bikes, but nobody was really saying they were better.

Just buy your own e-scooter or electric unicycle. Solves most of these issues and takes stress off of existing public transit (not to mention personal electric transit is almost always faster than public transit during rush-hour).

> Just buy your own e-scooter or electric unicycle

...or stick with either a (kick) scooter or standard bicycle? Definitely better for the environment and almost certainly better for your health, too.

Unless you want to show up to work a sweaty mess. I have a bike I ride for exercise as well, but commuting really only makes sense on an electric scoot / EUC.

It might be better for your health, or it might be totally unrealistic given the state of your health.

works if you have a shower and a change of clothes at work and soap and towel etc. its a logistical nightmare. i have both but bicycle is mostly a recreational vehicle

They're also useful for 'last km' transport, like getting to and from the train station.

The smaller ones can also be taken on the bus or subway.

Do you know of any smaller/lighter e-scooters that are easily hand carried and durable? The typical Bird/Lime look a bit heavy for carrying into an office or up to an apartment. I've searched online, but most look like sketchy Chinese stuff, so I'm a bit concerned about longevity and parts availability.

Personally, I just purchased a lump-sum of Ninebot-es2 and es4 models from a Police auction (they were confiscated bird scooters). I just replaced the dashboard and went about using them for personal commuting. The range sucked, I'd be lucky to get 3.5 - 4 miles at 16mph to my office, which meant I had to charge on both ends. This is what lead to my purchase of an KS18xl electric unicycle.

However, there are more and more slim carbon fiber "micro" electric scooters entering the market that look absolutely incredible!

My wife and I just bought the xiaomi/ninebot one, they are around 15kg but fold down fairly nicely, I won't lie and say it's ideal, but it wasn't much of a challenge getting them in and out of our apartment (which, being in HK is tiny:))

Weight is weight of course, but I've seen ones where they fold up so that you pull it behind you on one of its wheels, like one of those rolling suitcases.

eMicro escooters are light and pretty powerful, but range is not the best.

Egret escooters have better range but are heavier.

Both brands are well built and durable, but not cheap.

I've had my Egret 10 for over a year, use it every day on rough roads with heavy loads and it's held up nicely. I did break the trigger going over a pothole, but was able to fix it myself. Otherwise only changed the back tire and brake pads (standard parts).

"the materials it took to manufacture the frame, wheels and battery"

How is this worse than a moped? Silly article.

The scooters have very poor durability. They're lasting on the order of 100-200 miles in rental fleets. The study actually underestimates this effect and assumes that they last about 5x longer than they empirically do. Bird and the scooter manufacturers are trying to address this by making beefier scooters that don't fold with bigger batteries, but the abuse they take in a dockless rental fleet and from having such small wheels make durability a big challenge.

A moped typically lasts 10,000-100,000 miles, so even though it's much heavier, the energy and cost are amortized over a far longer period.

There is no way the average lifespan is only 100-200 miles. That would make the cost per mile 2-3 dollars which is completely unrealistic.

I don't know about scooters, but I'm in a city with a lot of Lime bikes. I spent a few weeks commuting to work using them and each day was a roll of the dice to see if the bike I got was going to be functional.

I don't know what's wrong with some people but apparently "drive it like you stole it" also applies to "rented it". Based on how a lot of those bikes look—and this is while Lime is actively maintaining and culling the fleet and—it seems many users end their ride by leaping off the bikes in mid sprint and letting it crash into whatever, sometimes punctuated with an angry kick or maybe smearing a little dirt and food into the seat and basket.

It's completely careless use that raises the ecological and economic price of these ride shares. If people were less shitty, they'd be way better in every respect.


“The average vehicle went 163.2 miles over 92 trips during its lifetime”


They lost $100 million on 40 million in revenue.

No, because you're assuming a zero-sum game or even profits. It's widely known that these e-scooter companies are eating a ton of losses right now as they figure things out.

There’ve been some studies that align with the statement by OP [1]. Looks like lifecycle of the studied fleet was under 200 miles and fewer than 30 days. People really mistreat them and beat them up.


> That would make the cost per mile 2-3 dollars which is completely unrealistic.

That's why you spend billions of dollars of VC money.

Most rental electric scooters are VERY abused.

One Chinese bike rental company lost its entire fleet in about a week, 10,000 bikes lost in less than 10 days.

I have one that has 1000 miles and it looks like new. And just because they put under engineered scooters on the streets doesn't mean they are more polluting than a regular moped.

That is very interesting. Do you have a reference on the 100-200miles lifespan?

That's the game of these companies. Scale first and figure out all of the problems. Of course, there will be waste as that gets sorted out but there is economic incentive to reduce waste (as long as it is a cost).

More broadly, this is how capitalism works. Capital is allocated relatively efficiently but there is a lot of failure and waste inherent in the competitive process.

Cars/bikes etc don't have carbon footprints to manufacture? This is an idiotic comparison.

Unless you're buying some really crappy cars or bikes, they generally last for several years or decades, compared to the estimated month-6 months lifespan of e-scooters. (Bird has newer scooters coming out that are supposed to last almost a year. Almost a year. For an average of 3 rides a day.)

When you're arguing that your mode of transport is green but it only lasts a few weeks with relatively sparse usage, then the manufacturing carbon footprint is absolutely relevant. When the mode of transport lasts for decades and the manufacturing footprint is spread out amongst millions of others vehicles, the manufacturing footprint isn't very relevant.

You have a very good and valid point that I completely missed as I was fooled by the category it resides in.

It's asinine. I might as well include the CO2 footprint of the wear on your shoes and pants from walking.

You could, if you wanted an ultra-detailed comparison.

And scooters would still be found wanting. Pants and shoes can survive a few months of daily wear. With proper care, even cheapo stuff from Target/Walmart can last for years.

Right now, Bird and its competitors are struggling to get six months of lifespan out of scooters used an average of just 3 times a day.

What are your guys thoughts on Revel, the electric moped that you can use in Brooklyn. They seem to be more robust, thus potentially stay on the road longer? https://gorevel.com/new-york/

I'd love to see cities roll out docks for the scooters, where they could charge while parked.

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