Advocates of scooters (such as Have A Go) tout the many, many benefits of micromobility. One of these benefits is their tiny carbon footprint.
As scooters proliferate, some are beginning to question just how carbon free they are when fleet management is taken into consideration.
This is a fair concern. It’s wise to look beyond the obvious first order effects of something and take into account its ecosystem and its second/third order effects.
At present, fleet management (this includes fleet management of bike sharing networks) is comprised of a mix of vans, trucks, and cars operated by fleet management companies or by individual chargers making some side income by charging and rebalancing scooters.
But all these vehicles still burn oil.
So some observers of the space are asking about the carbon footprint of these vehicles to gain a better sense of the true carbon footprint of scooter sharing.
THE POTENTIALLY MISGUIDED QUESTION
While this question is a responsible and wise one to ask, it can be a bit shortsighted.
When a similar question is asked about the true carbon footprint of electric cars, citing today’s electricity generated from burning fossil fuels, staunch advocates of EVs always retort with the fact that the grid is only getting greener with renewable. So, they state, as the grid gets greener over time, EVs will get greener over time.
And about this, they are correct. The status quo isn’t static. The boom in solar and wind will continue accelerating and reducing the carbon footprint of electricity over time.
A similar reasoning also applies to scooters.
First, as cars and trucks (the current modes of scooter management) electrify over time, the carbon footprint of fleet management will drop over time.
Second, many individual chargers get creative and use bikes and scooters themselves to collect, charge, and rebalance scooters, leaving nary a carbon footprint.
Third, as cities become increasingly pressured to build bike networks to accommodate the growing number of bike/scooter users, cities become more bike/scooter friendly. This means the use of bikes and scooters to haul bikes and scooters can dramatically increase. This will drastically cut down the emissions of fleet management.
Finally and probably most significantly, as scooters gain autonomy, they will be able to charge and rebalance themselves!
Given these developments, micromobility fleet management will quickly become almost carbon neutral and also incredibly cost effective.
So while the question of today’s micromobility fleet management carbon footprint is a good one, asking it can imply a certain invariance and inflexibility of scooter fleet management operations and technology.
TODAY’S CLUNKY SCOOTER MANAGEMENT IS TEMPORARY
Today’s scooter management is a hodgepodge of solutions. It also reflects our broken transportation system: something that requires tons of steel and huge amounts of carbon to move a few hundred pounds of cargo.
Scooters can be a big part of the solution, providing sane mobility options and acting as a forcing function for micromobility infrastructure adoption around the world.