Electric cars have become increasingly popular in the U.S., but their relatively recent adoption has not yet reduced the impact of fossil-fuel powered transportation, which accounts for around 29% of total carbon emissions in the U.S. contributing to climate change and rising global temperatures.
We know that more solutions are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example, the widespread adoption of electric scooters in urban environments, where most short trips are under 3 miles and don't require two-to-four-ton four-wheeled vehicles.
But are electric scooters really eco friendly?
Are shared electric scooters good for the environment?
Some critical studies in recent years have cast doubt on the idea, pointing to the environmental impact of building, deploying, charging, and replacing fleets of shared scooters around the world.
While some companies have resolved issues by deploying heavy, near-indestructible electric scooters with swappable batteries, the sharing industry may have a ways to go before it offers a form of environmentally friendly, sustainable transportation.
Shared vs owned electric scooters
The problems of scooter sharing don't adhere to owning or renting privately owned electric scooters. Private vehicles are typically stored out of the elements, given more routine maintenance, charged while parked at home, and ridden by one or two people.
Well maintained private electric scooters tend to last their lifespan, about 3-5 years, while rental scooters rarely last longer than 18 months. And owned scooters contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions from charging, since they aren't moved by car or truck to separate charging locations.
Unlike internal combustion engines, electric scooters can be also powered by renewable energy sources. Their low energy consumption means that most scooters use small, portable, laptop-style chargers and that they can even be charged with solar panels and a generator.
It's true that the manufacturing and distribution of electric scooters produce carbon emissions. Environmental standards can vary by manufacturer and country of origin when it comes the the building and transportation of scooters. Individual riders should make informed buying decisions, and ride scooters built from recycled and/or recyclable materials.
When it comes to owning and riding electric scooters themselves, most scooters for adults can replace a large number of car trips, with zero emissions and very little energy consumed. Not only are short commutes to work and school possible on electric scooters, but they can replace cars for most local errands.
But scooters aren't only great solutions for short trips. Electric scooters with high top speeds and long range batteries have become a preferred method of travel for commuters who live a couple dozen miles or more from the office, as well as for off-road adventurers going electric.
Energy efficient electric motors beat gas powered vehicles guzzling fossil fuels every time.
As scooters become more affordable and accessible, their widespread adoption can help significantly reduce air pollution in urban areas while also having significant impact on the sprawl of parking lots and traffic congestion, as we saw during the Coronavirus pandemic when a 50-60 percent reduction in car traffic for just a few weeks led to a drastic reduction of pollutants in the air.
If scooters largely replaced cars for brief commutes, quick store trips, local visits, links to public transit and other short trips, the result would be measurable improvement in air quality in a relatively short period of time.
Reducing noise pollution
Electric scooters are an essential part of improving air quality for everyone. Their adoption, along with electric bikes, in an urban environment can help reduce pollution significantly. Scooters also help bring down a form of pollution we may not think about very often.
Maybe humans have grown accustomed to rising levels of noise pollution -- defined by the EPA as "disturbing or unwanted noise" -- in crowded cities full of cars, buses, and construction buses. Or maybe we haven't. It's certainly true the rising levels of noise have disrupted the lives of wild animals, including birds, bats, and other animals that rely on sound to communicate.
And the truth is that rising noise levels do affect us, whether we notice them consciously or not, contributing to rising levels of underlying chronic stress. Electric scooters and e bikes are all but silent, and the more electric vehicles deployed on the road, the less stressed everyone will be.
Reducing light pollution
While it's always a good idea to use the brightest lighting you can when riding an electric scooter at night, you'll still emit a small fraction of a car's headlights. If bike, e bike, and electric scooter lanes replace more car lanes, we can also expect to see much less light pollution at night, which leads to better sleep and less stress!
Making public transit an easy choice
Electric scooters have opened public transit to a wider spectrum of the population by eliminating last-mile barriers to entry. The more commuters in urban areas can use scooters to access subway and bus lines, the more they can leave the car at home, or give it up altogether as an unnecessary expense. And fewer cars on the road means lower carbon emissions, improved air quality, and fewer greenhouse gases driving global climate change.
Other ways e scooters reduce carbon emissions
Greenhouse gases from cars and trucks are the most prominent form of carbon emissions produced daily in the transportation sector. Despite huge investments in electric cars, these emissions continue to rise. But electric scooters can help reduce carbon emissions in other ways than just replacing car trips.
As personal electric vehicles become more popular, the need for parking lots and large garages diminishes. The indirect impact of electric scooters can be felt in the infrastructure of large cities, which in time will require less construction for cars and more environmentally friendly building for humans and small vehicles.
As Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said:
“An ideal future is one where cars are serving people in cities rather than the other way around.”
Reducing the urban resources allocated to cars and trucks can have huge energy savings, and allocating resources to small vehicles like electric scooters creates a virtuous cycle, incentivizing more electric scooter riders and cyclists, research shows.
Spreading the small carbon footprint of electric scooters (whether they're traveling to the corner store or taking long-range trips over long distances) is exactly the positive change we need in more cities around the world. While more city transportation officials are recognizing the benefits of shared scooters, private vehicles, made from recyclable materials, will ultimately have the most environmental impact.
Growing numbers of people and cars, and the resulting traffic congestion and buildup of greenhouse gases in urban areas, have worsened global warming and air quality worldwide, and reduced our quality of life as we spend more time stuck in traffic or dreading the daily commute. Electric scooters are a major part of the solution.
Unagi offers a great way to try out owning your own electric scooter, made from the highest quality materials, with zero-risk and no commitment. When you subscribe, you pay only a small setup fee and monthly rental fee. You won't be locked into a contract and you can send the scooter back free of charge if you decide it's not for you.
Subscribe to Unagi, get out of traffic, leave the car at home, and become part of the solution today.