New scientific research has been conducted to find out more about how polluting electric scooters are. For example, they are less polluting than a regular car but the materials used or how the energy produced to recharge the batteries need more attention. However, riding an electric scooter to school or office might represent a “green” solution in time.
New research data
A study from the North Carolina State University analyzed all the aspects of riding an electric scooter. They focused on overlooked aspects such as the material used for manufacturing the body of the scooter, the metals incorporated in the scooter’s battery, and the shipment (mainly from China).
Most people consider that if there is no internal combustion engine or an exhaust pipe, it means that any vehicle is 100% environmentally friendly.
Their “green” energy
Indeed, electric scooters don’t release any CO2 emissions while driving them in or outside the city. However, their lack of CO2 emissions does not make them the perfect fit to slow climate change. The electricity used to recharge the scooters’ batteries is usually produced by a carbon emitting power plant.
Even though they are not polluting inside the city, they are using a form of polluting energy.
Electric scooters’ emission
There is no surprise the study demonstrated that an electric scooter is more environmentally friendly than a car. The average greenhouse gas emission per mile for an electric scooter is around 30 grams of C02 while a car has approximately 400 grams of CO2 per traveled mile.
However, taking the bus is a greener solution than riding an electric scooter, especially if there is a diesel powered bus on a highly circulated route.
Replacing the cars with e-scooters
Although taking a scooter is better for the planet than taking the car, only 30% of car users are choosing the e-scooter over the car. A study showed how people are using scooters and what type of trips they were taking.
The results showed that almost half of them would have walked the same distance or ridden a bike, 35% of them would have taken the car, 10% would have used public transportation and 8% would have given up the trip.
How it can be improved
Allowing scooters to be parked in supervised parking spaces for the night might be a solution. This way, scooters will not be vandalized so their period of use is maximized. Furthermore, it reduces the distance driven to pick the scooters up as some of the scooters collected don’t need to be recharged.
Each scooter collector should be assigned an area or a sector so they don’t waste fuel driving all around the city to gather more scooters.
Replacing car trips
If you want to make a small trip fast, you can use an electric scooter even if you don’t own one. Market developers made available a sharing system similar to the Bike Sharing System. You just need an app so you can localize the closest electric scooter. In general, these scooters have a GPS so you can drop them off anywhere.
The system is already available in big cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, and San Francisco and the renting companies plan to extend the list.
Why choose a scooter?
It will surprise you, but over 60% percent of the trips made by US citizens using a car are shorter than 6 miles. A trip this short might be faster with a scooter if there is a lot of traffic. Also, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space as a scooter can be parked almost anywhere.
Furthermore, in terms of efficiency, scooters are the best choice. For example, one kilowatt-hour of energy propels a car with an internal combustion engine for almost a mile. A modern electric car can travel up to 4 miles using the same amount of energy. Using an electric scooter will get you further as you can travel more than 80 miles with one kilowatt-hour of energy.
In fact, electric scooters are more efficient than a human. While traveling the same distance, a person of the normal constitution would need eight times more energy than an electric scooter.
How the market is adjusting
There is a direct proportionality between the number of electric scooters that need recharging and the amount of carbon emissions generated by picking them. Summarily, as the number of scooters gets bigger, the carbon emissions per scooter decrease.
Some markets haven’t gotten accustomed yet to this new form of transportation. As markets get adjusted to electric scooters and the number of people using scooters will increase, the sharing companies might change their strategy.
A good option is the use of solar panels that are mounted on scooters to recharge them. Also, creating centralized drop-off points where scooters can be charged on the spot is a good method of adjustment.
A scooter’s durability
The service life of the electric scooters has a great impact on the scooter’s environmentally friendly characteristics. Even if they are designed to last for 2 years, they usually can be used for a maximum of 3 months. Some people use them as stunt scooters or simply throw them into lakes or set them on fire out of frustration. There are plenty of videos where you can see this type of behavior.
The short lifespan of the electric scooters has a negative impact on their overall CO2 emissions per mile. Manufacturers now have to engage in additional extraction of metal used for producing a scooter or increase the number of shipments from China.
Electric scooters ban
An electric scooter that has caught on fire could represent a difficult situation to manage for local authorities. Lithium is used for batteries and it has an unusual way of burning down and some people might be caught unprepared by this unfortunate event. In general, batteries are made of multiple cells filled with a flammable electrolyte.
So the fire risk represents a serious problem for manufacturers and users. The battery’s case is designed to absorb all shocks and vibrations and to disperse the heat generated during charging. In case of a fire, the cells will set fire to one another and the fire can’t be put out by simply throwing water on them.
A solution that is currently developed by engineers is the use of thermal conductive trays as this would help to avoid the overheated areas of the battery and would improve the battery’s capacity by 20%. Because of the fire hazard, some cities have policies forcing companies to remove all electric scooters from public spaces at night.
How the scooters’ batteries are charged
Another aspect that contributes negatively to the scooter’s CO2 emission is the process of having the batteries charged. Some scooter riders don’t charge the batteries at home as they don’t have the necessary equipment or simply don’t want to spend time and effort on this task.
All scooters parked on public spaces must be picked up by car at night and returned the next day at the same location. This might increase the total amount of CO2 emissions especially if there is a small number of scooters to be picked up dispersed over a big area.
Furthermore, if there are more companies collecting scooters from the same part of the city, they could drive a lot for 4 or 5 scooters. The amount of carbon emissions resulted from collecting the scooters could be bigger or equal to the emissions of car rides replaced with driving an electric scooter.
Decreasing the environmental impact
A method considered by the manufacturers in order to enhance the environmental impact of the electric scooter is to improve the overall quality of the scooters. If the scooter producers would be able to increase the life of the scooters without using more polluting materials, the CO2 emissions per mile would be smaller.
Even making the scooters usable for 2 or 3 years would have a great overall impact. Some of the manufacturers are already taking care of this task as they unveiled new models with longer lasting batteries and more durable parts.
In big cities, noise pollution is often overlooked despite being a serious form of pollution. It is a known fact that urban noise decreases the workers’ productivity while it increases the levels of aggression, anxiety, and stress.
Electric scooters are almost silent so considering them as an appropriate replacement for cars or motorcycles, will significantly reduce the harmful effects of noise pollution.