With 38.5 million rides in 2018, electric scooter share popularity has exploded across the country… and with it has come a world of controversy, mostly around the injuries, deaths and “street clutter” that has been created in the wake of this new mode of transportation. One of the more recent knocks on this form of micro mobility is that they are are far from the environmentally friendly vehicles that people think they are. While they are overall more eco-friendly than a car and have no actual tailpipe emissions, their upstream and downstream carbon footprint impacts make them less environmentally sustainable than walking, biking, or taking public transit. Body and lithium-ion battery construction, along with the fact that scooters are often targets of vandalism, make up about half of this negative planetary impact.
The other 50% of this “not as nice to Mother Earth as we thought” factor is that these machines need to be maintained, charged and “rebalanced” (redistributed), all of which take vans, trucks or cars driving around cities picking up the scooters. Simply maintaining a fleet of hundreds or thousands of e-scooters is a costly environmental task.
What no one is talking about with regard to this latter point is that this applies only to shared scooter services. Physically owning one immediately eliminates the need for rebalancing, and the extra environmental impact involved when these machines are vandalized. As the owner or a UScooter Eco, I can attest to the fact that owning an electric scooter does replace car trips for me.
If you’re interested in e-scooters but you’re worried about the horrible press they’ve received, look into buying one for yourself! Decent brands can be purchased for $500-1500, and owning one that you’re comfortable with is always safer than hopping on a machine that others have used, or potentially misused.
When considering the environmental impact of electric scooters, let’s make the distinction between scooter share and scooter ownership. If e-scooters are to transition into a viable mode of transportation, we need to see that they are not just the chaos created by companies like Lime and Bird. They can be valuable, environmentally sustainable modalities for our country and our planet going forward.