Electric vehicles are an eco-friendly means of transport, from Nissan Leafs to Segway Rollerblades. Somewhere in the middle, we have the humble electric scooter. Made popular by their convenience and ease of use, these road-ready stalks of fun have been taking the world of personal transportation by storm - all the while reducing the carbon footprints of the customers that choose them over non-electric alternatives.
Or do they?
While you may first awaken your scooter after you pull it out of the box, it’s life begins long before you strap on your helmet and press on the accelerator. Mass-manufacturing processes have historically impacted the environment negatively, and unfortunately the electric scooter is no outlier. Today, we will take a look into the real carbon impact of every electric scooter you see populating your city’s sidewalks.
We’ll consider two of the basic elements that make up a scooter: the chassis itself, and the battery that powers it. If you’d like to learn more about the individual parts of the scooter and their respective environmental impacts, we go into more detail in another one of our articles!
Aluminium and other aluminium-based alloys are well-known for being strong and lightweight. This is why your scooter is able to support your weight from point A to point B, and be light enough for you to fold up and carry to point C. It’s affordable, too, making scooters the most accessible motorized vehicle available to date.
It has a range of strengths, but its literal strength is also its weakness. Industrial-grade aluminium is difficult to mold, requiring high amounts of heat to shape into scooter frames. This, multiplied by mass-manufacturing quantities, aggregates to high carbon emissions before a scooter even leaves the factory.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are just that - rechargeable. These batteries power scooters, offering robust ranges at smile-conjuring speeds. When they run out, plug the scooter into a wall for just a few hours, and they’ll carry you out on yet another adventure. At rhyde, we’re fans of things you can use over and over again.
Down-side? When improperly disposed of, the casings erode and they leach harmful chemicals into the ground. Down-er side? They’re not as easy to recycle as the boxes they come in. The highly-reactive chemicals used to construct them are fire hazards and have been known to burst into flames, with the possibility of causing serious injury. The batteries can be recycled by qualified electronic recycling companies. Click here to learn more about them.
Keeping this in mind, industry practices have changed to allow for longer lifespans of lithium-ion batteries, and the ones in your scooter are no expectation. But why bring them up in the first place?
A good battery is only as good as the thing you put it in. Consumer scooters can last long if they’re taken care of and it may be years till one would need a battery replaced. However, when they’re disposed of, even with a functional battery, they risk the harmful effects to the environment described above.
Ride-sharing scooters have also filled pavements around the world, and while their use poses minimal risk of carbon emissions, they degrade much faster than your Xiaomi 1S will.
Ultimately, the key to offsetting the harm a scooter has caused (and may cause in the future) is to keep it out of landfills and, instead, on the road. The longer the life-time of each individual scooter, the lower the CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer become. This is where we come in.
At rhyde, we love scooters. We really love them. We love them so much, we’re working to keep every scooter bought from a manufacturer on the streets as long as possible. Click here to learn more about rhyde and why we call ourselves the most sustainable micro-mobility company out there.