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E-scooters Pollute More Than Buses, New Research Suggests

Posted August 9, 2019

Sorry e-scooter riders, you’re not reversing global warming. Yet.. In fact, people who make, collect, and use e-scooters might be doing serious harm to the environment.

Image credit: Denniz Futalan via Pexels, Free Licence

According to a new study out of North Carolina State University, an average e-scooter creates over 200g of CO2 over its lifecycle. All of this test data was taken from e-scooter trends in Monte Carlo. This contradicts what many e-scooter supporters claim; for example, according to Maison Law, supporters of e-scooters in Fresno argue these devices offer an eco-friendly transportation alternative for citizens.

About half of an e-scooter’s CO2 emissions are a result of how these devices are manufactured. The other half, however, is highly correlated with how e-scooters are collected every day. The environmental impact of charging e-scooters was negligible.

Although e-scooters produced less CO2 than cars, they weren’t as eco-friendly as a crowded bus. Of course, walking and biking remain the most eco-friendly modes of transportation.

On a positive note, researchers believe proactive steps from companies and local governments could significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the e-scooter industry. Most of the policy suggestions in this piece had to do with improving the efficiency of e-scooter pickup and delivery.

For instance, scientists said it would make more sense for companies to only pick up e-scooters when their batteries were running low. Today, most companies are required by law to pick up and charge e-scooters every night.

Study authors also suggested companies use fuel-efficient vans to pick up and deliver e-scooters. This simple transition could reduce CO2 emissions by about 30 grams per e-scooter.

The data out of NC State University suggests most of the environmental issues that plague e-scooters aren’t the fault of the devices. It’s the current infrastructure surrounding e-scooter manufacture and delivery that causes most of the environmental damage. Addressing these issues will hopefully make e-scooters a truly eco-friendly addition to urban transportation.

Dr. Jeremiah X. Johnson, a professor at NC State University’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, was the lead researcher on this study. Other key study authors include Drs. Joseph Hollingsworth and Brenna Copeland.

For more detailed information on this study, check out the August 2019 edition of Environmental Research Letters. This particular study was entitled, “Are e-scooters polluters? The environmental impacts of shared dockless electric scooters.”

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