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Study reveals impact of e-scooters on the environment

Electric scooters in a city available for rent. Photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Provo is adding e-scooters this week. Salt Lake City, Ogden, Park City, Sandy and Draper already have them.¬† Some people love them and others say they clutter up their cities. And now, a study finds them to be environmentally unsafe.

But electric-scooters seem to be here to stay. In Salt Lake City alone 1,500 e-scooters have been made available from three companies. Provo will start with 200 e-scooters with plans to add hundreds more if residents show they approve.

The study conducted by North Carolina State University concluded that the scooters themselves can help reduce carbon emissions.

But by conducting a life cycle analysis of the dockless scooter industry the researchers found there are other vehicles that are associated with the use of e-scooters which may not be so friendly. The researchers also found that there are other forms of transportation that beat the e-scooter altogether.

Life-cycle analysis

A life-cycle analysis¬†examines the emissions produced by everything required to create a product. In the case of e-scooters that includes the aluminum and lithion-ion battery. Then there’s the manufacturing process. Add shipping the product to the list (typically, from China).¬† Then add the emissions created by getting the e-scooters from the shipping dock to the charging dock in your city. Don’t forget the emissions created by vehicles that re-distribute the e-scooters from place to place in your city each day. Finally, they counted the emissions created to eventually destroy the e-scooter.

The last part of the study compared results to results from other forms of transportation.

Results of the study

The North Carolina State University researchers say that the e-scooter industry can make improvements to the carbon footprint of their vehicles by focusing on the manufacturing of the scooter and the methods used for e-scooter collection when it’s time for charging. They also recommend increasing the length of time that the e-scooter can be used. “Without these efforts,” the authors write, “our calculations for life cycle emissions show a net increase in global warming impact.”

Increasing scooter lifetimes, reducing collection and distribution distance, using more efficient vehicles, and less frequent charging strategies can reduce adverse environmental impacts significant.

By the way, the other forms of transportation the researchers found to be environmentally more sound than e-scooters are walking and riding on a diesel-powered bus.