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Londoners, how green are electric scooters, really?

We ask experts if electric scooters are better for the environment than other transport options

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

In our series ‘How green is it really?’, we dig into eco-trends and find out if they’re as sustainable as we thought. This week: electric scooters.

Surely those annoying E-scooters have to at least be good for the environment?
Well, sort of. Lorna Stevenson, who’s doing a PhD in qualitative transport policy that focuses on E-scooters at the University of Westminster, says the most recent estimates show E-scooters emit around 61 grams of carbon per kilometre travelled. ‘For a private car, it’s about 209 and for a ride hail about 299. A bus is around 77 and the tube is about 28.’ Cycling can be as low as six.

What’s the biggest issue with them?
One word: batteries. ‘They’re carbon-intensive to make and the mining to get the lithium is damaging to the environment,’ Stevenson says. Liana Cipcigan, Professor of Sustainable Transport at Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, says that batteries can also become an environmental hazard if scooters are dumped.

How do E-scooters compare to electric cars?
It’s complicated. ‘You’re doing all this [carbon-intensive] manufacturing for the scooter’s short life cycle and for only one passenger, versus an electric car that would have more passengers,’ Cipcigan says. ‘But we need a clearer analysis.’

The verdict E-scooters are better than cars or ride shares for most journeys and just as good as public transport (depending on how you weigh different factors). But they’re less environmentally friendly than walking or cycling. 

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