Scooters

Are Shared E-Scooters Good For The Planet? Only If They Replace Car Trips

Aug 25, 2019
Scooters
Emree Weaver for KUT

Shared dockless electric scooters, or e-scooters, transport riders over short distances in cities. Ride share companies promote them as an environmentally friendly choice that reduces dependence on cars.

To properly assess these claims, it’s important to consider all relevant environmental factors, including the materials and energy required to manufacture scooters, the impacts of collecting them daily for charging and redistributing, and the electricity that charges their batteries.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Nearly 200 people were injured because of rentable scooters between Sept. 5 and Nov. 30 last year, according to a first-of-its-kind study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Austin Public Health Department.

During that time, there were about 940,000 rides taken in Austin overall, according to the Austin Transportation Department. That results in a ratio of 20 injuries per 100,000 rides.

OjO Electric

Another dockless scooter company plans to enter the market in Austin – but its users will get to sit down.

OjO Electric, LLC, a California-based company, is launching the first sit-down electric scooter rideshare in the capital. One hundred scooters are expected to hit city streets by Feb. 1 and grow to 250 later in the spring.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The ride-hailing company Uber launched its new JUMP e-scooters in Austin today.

Uber's JUMP e-bikes have been in Austin since the summer, but now the company is getting in on the city’s growing scooter culture. Uber plans to initially drop a few hundred of the scooters across the city. They can be found and reserved through the Uber app.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

When electric scooters flooded into Austin, the companies that rent them touted their environmental benefits: “Riders were able to prevent 445,334 pounds of carbon emissions,” a press release from Bird said. The startup LimeBike estimated its scooters reduced 8,500 pounds of CO2 here in just two weeks.

But those numbers are based on some shaky assumptions.