E-Scooters: Not as Eco-Friendly as You Thought

When you factor in production and infrastructure, e-scooters might not exactly be saving the Earth.
January 1, 2020
5 mins read

Electric scooters are booming in every major city as an alternative to public transport and cars. There seems to be a general understanding that e-scooters are much more eco-friendly but is that really the truth? Recent studies suggest otherwise.

Looking from the outside, the trend may seem like a godsend for urban travel in times where the climate is being threatened. There’s no gas or oil, just electricity. Less greenhouse emission, right?

While it is true that electric scooters barely emit CO2 on the go, there are some troublesome issues at hand. In fact, e-scooters are less green than e-bikes, busses, trains and even electric cars. Looks like we’ve got some explaining to do.

The Issues: Manufacturing and Maintenance

Electric scooters become major creators of CO2 pollution when you look at their manufacturing process and just what it takes to maintain one. Claims of being “carbon-free” only work when someone views the scooter in its final form and ignores maintenance or assumes the scooter is used to replace the majority of trips taken by personal cars.

The Truth Behind Manufacturing

When an electric scooter is used, it produces about half of the CO2 as a standard car ride. This could theoretically reduce emissions, but the problem is scooters are not used enough to offset the pollution created by manufacturing the vehicle in the first place.

According to a recent study by experts at North Carolina State University, scooters used by BIRD and Lime produced 202 grams of climate pollution per mile. However, the average lifespan of each scooter was less than a year, which meant the scooters needed to be replaced rapidly, which created a disproportionate amount of pollution to manufacture and replace batteries and frames.

The result? Not only were scooters still putting harmful gases into the environment (even at reduced amounts), but the amount was almost akin to a year’s worth of trips in a car when the researchers added the CO2 produced to make the body.

In other words, using a scooter for a year and then replacing it was just as bad as using a car for trips. All in all, the culprit seems to be poor construction quality. According to ErideHero, “If it isn’t good quality, the scooter won’t last very long.”

What About Maintenance?

Regular maintenance to preserve scooters past a year seems like it would be a valid solution to issues with carbon dioxide pollution caused by electric scooters. Unfortunately, the current practices of popular scooter service companies like BIRD and Lime actually do not create any benefits.

For example, do you know who goes around the city and collects the scooters that people leave in random locations?

While some services will give people money for returning the vehicles, the vast majority of scooters are collected by employees who drive around with vans and collect all of the vehicles left around the city. For every mile someone travels with an electric scooter to combat CO2 emissions, someone is driving in a regular gas-powered automobile. This completely negates the benefits of electric scooter usage.

Scooter Usage

Finally, there is a major question researchers have asked: Do scooters actually outweigh the benefits of other methods of eco-friendly transportation?

In the study conducted by experts from North Carolina State University, it does not seem like it. Although scooters do have the benefit of requiring little physical effort to travel, participants in the study said they still preferred to use other options like walking or regular bicycles.

The creators of the study also calculated that people taking a single public bus was more beneficial than multiple people taking scooters. This was because the bus’s emissions per passenger were far lower than the emissions of single-user scooter.

Ultimately, the study decided that just using the scooters, especially at their current rates, was not as eco-friendly as advertised. Residents of cities would benefit more if they stuck to public transportation or used manual forms of transportation like walking or riding a bike.


Although electric scooters are not as eco-friendly as they could be, this does not mean they are worthless. Manufacturers are even now working to create more long-lasting and durable models with reduced CO2 emissions. Plus, the more people who eschew traditional vehicles like cars in favor of the scooters, the better off the environment will be.

Ultimately, if you know you will use an electric scooter more than other forms of transportation, go ahead and get one. Just pay attention to where you leave it.

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