According to researchers at North Carolina State University, electric scooters such as Bird and Lime scooters are not as eco-friendly as previously believed. According to researchers, only 34 percent of scooter users would have otherwise used a car, while the majority would have used environment-friendly bicycles or public transportation.
The MIT Technology Review reports that while electric scooter companies such as Bird and Lime claim that their scooters are environmentally friendly, that may not be the case. Bird claims that its scooters allow users to “cruise past traffic and cut back on CO2 emissions—one ride at a time,” while Lime claim that its scooters “reduce dependence on personal automobiles for short-distance transportation and leave future generations with a cleaner, healthier planet.”
But just because the electric scooters don’t run on fossil fuels doesn’t mean that they’re entirely environmentally friendly. A “life-cycle assessment” was conducted by researchers at NC State in which the researchers tallied up the emissions from making, shipping, charging, collecting, and disposing of these scooters. The investigation began after one researcher noticed that Lime receipt stated “your ride was carbon-free,” this is not the case.
The study states that dockless scooters produce more greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than a standard diesel bus with a high volume of riders, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, and a regular bicycle. The scooters produce about half of the emissions of a regular car, according to the study, with around 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile compare to the 415 per mile produced by a regular car.
But a survey of e-scooter riders in Raleigh, North Carolina, found that only 34 percent would have used a car or ride-sharing service to get to their destination, while nearly half would instead have used a bicycle or walked. 11 percent said they would have taken the bus while seven percent stated that they would simply have not gone on the journey.
As a result, approximately two-thirds of the time scooter riders generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative. Lime said in a statement: “We welcome research into the environmental benefits of new mobility options, however this study is largely based on assumptions and incomplete data that produces high variability in the results. We believe micromobility will reduce pollution and mitigate climate change through clean and efficient modes of transportation and we’re making rapid advances in technology and operations that are helping us become a more sustainable company.”
Read the full study here.