How environmentally friendly and sustainable are the newfangled e-scooters? In Berlin, as in many other major cities in Germany, they have been creeping around for some time now - causing both head-shaking and enthusiasm. They are advertised primarily with the aspect of sustainability - but are the e-scooters really that sustainable?
In this article, I want to tell you more about the definition, advantages and disadvantages of e-scooters and how eco-friendly they really are.
What are e-scooters anyway?
The e-scooters (or also called electric pedal scooters) are in principle ordinary scooter, with the subtle difference that they are Electric motor and are not propelled by a kick of the foot. In Germany's major cities, they have been available for hire for some time as part of the share economy. Payment is made by time of use. With the app of the respective provider, the e-scooter can be easily found, unlocked and - powered by electric energy - simply used.
The e-scooters are primarily intended to CO2.emissions and reduce particulate pollution in city centers, relieve road traffic, reduce the parking shortage and save a lot of time.
Advantages and disadvantages of e-scooters
With the advantages and disadvantages of the newfangled e-scooters, let's just slowly approach the answer to the initial question of sustainability. Based on my personal experience with e-scooters and some statistics and opinions, I can give you my thoughts on e-scooters clearly as follows. They illustrate why opinions always swing back and forth between curse and blessing.
Advantages of e-scooters
There is always at least one good reason for new things coming onto the market. What are the advantages of using a rented e-scooter?
- Speed: The maximum speed of the scooters is 20 km/h for adults and 12 km/h for under-14s.₁
- Flexibility: They are located in many places in the city, you can use them to get from A to B quickly and also take the scooter home to recharge.
- Compact: An e-scooter weighs about 10 kg and is relatively easy to carry. Since it is very narrow, you can easily fit through any gap.
- Night drive: If there is no streetcar at night, you can use the e-scooter to get home relatively quickly and easily.
- Figurehead: By simply using an e-scooter with the provider's respective app, people come into contact with e-mobility. Acceptance in our society is increasing.
Disadvantages of the e-scooters
Of course, we also have to look at the opposite side. The following disadvantages illustrate why e-scooters are also much criticized.
- Environmental Harmfulness: The short service life, the German electricity mix with a still high proportion of coal and nuclear power, and lithium batteries from dangerous and nature-destroying open-cast mining are just a few examples.
- Purpose of e-scooters: If the scooters exclusively replaced car trips, they would be sustainable. Unfortunately, this is not the case in practice. Instead, they replace walking and bicycle and train trips. The lack of exercise probably causes increasing health problems in the long term.
- Risk of accident: According to the DGU (German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery), e-scooters pose a significant risk of accidents. The running boards are low, so that the foot quickly gets caught underneath.₂
- Price: The e-scooter from TIER costs 0.19€ per minute of use, which is about 11.40€ per hour. So depending on how long you want to ride it, the rental can be relatively expensive.₃
- Harassment: The displeasure in the society about the scooters is aggravated by the fact that the scooters lie in the way or their users drive with them uncontrolled and without observing the traffic rules through the area.
- Usage behavior: Not everyone treats borrowed electric treadmills with care. The devices are often sunk into rivers or put down after use, blocking entrances and sidewalks.
- Weather dependency: The scooters are not always used. It is to be expected both in the rain and generally in the cold season that the use of the e-scooters decreases significantly.
- Traffic Obstacle: The scooters are approved for the road. Since they only travel at about 11 km/h, while bicycles can easily reach twice that speed, they are a thwarting obstacle to traffic on the road.
Why e-scooters are unfortunately not sustainable
Of course, an e-scooter brings with it plenty of flexibility - however, the providers unjustly and presumably also knowingly greenwash their new road participants with the sustainability aspect.
- Just over 40% of the electricity mix in Germany comes from renewable energies₄
- Many devices are destroyed wantonly.₅
- On average, a scooter is supposed to last about 3 months - then it is e-waste. In Louisville (USA), a survey showed that e-scotters even last only 29 days - so they don't even survive a whole month.₆
- Raw materials such as cobalt have to be mined for the batteries. In Congo, workers toil under inhumane conditions. In addition, production in China usually requires a great deal of energy - energy from coal-fired power plants.₇
- A study in France found that scooter trips only replaced 8% car trips.₈
If they exclusively replaced car trips, one could certainly talk about sustainable e-scooters. And actually, that's exactly what they should be for - but the reality is unfortunately different.
E-scooters unfortunately do not make our mobility more sustainable
They mainly replace train journeys, walking and cycling - that's not the point. Personally, I am always open to new ideas - also in the case of e-scooters. However, after a brief questioning and an admittedly fun ride, I prefer to let this trend pass and hope that bicycle paths will be expanded and public transportation will become significantly cheaper instead.
Do you have any questions, suggestions or your own experiences on the topic of e-scooters and sustainability that you would like to share? Then feel free to leave a comment below this post.
PS.: Feel free to look at the Sustainability Blog of CareElite. There you will get many more Tips for sustainable living. Appropriate to the article I recommend you for example the contributions about the car free life and the sustainable driving.
₁ Mitsis, K.; CHIP Communications GmbH (2019): E-scooters are coming: Everything you need to know now (Date: March 02, 2019). https://efahrer.chip.de/news/e-scooter-kommen-alles-was-sie-jetzt-wissen-muessen_10343. [22.08.2019].
₂ SPIEGEL ONLINE GmbH & Co. KG (2019): Trauma surgeons warn against electric stand-up scooters (as at: 05/17/2019). https://www.spiegel.de/auto/aktuell/e-scooter-in-deutschland-unfallchirurgen-und-umweltschuetzer-warnen-vor-gefahr-a-1267874.html. [22.08.2019].
₃ CHIP Digital GmbH: TIER: E-scooter rental costs at a glance (as at: 13.08.2019). https://praxistipps.chip.de/tier-kosten-fuer-den-e-scooter-verleih-im-ueberblick_111830
₄ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (2019): Green electricity share in Germany exceeded 40 percent for the first time in 2018 (as of January 03, 2019) https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/oekostrom-anteil-in-deutschland-2018-erstmals-ueber-40-prozent-15969940.html. [09.08.2019].
₅ STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H (2019): Hate on e-scooters: Instagram account celebrates destruction of the devices (as at: 12.07.2019). https://www.derstandard.de/story/2000104683990/hass-auf-e-scooter-instagram-account-zelebriert-zerstoerung-der-geraete. [22.08.2019].
₆ Marks, M.; Norddeutscher Rundfunk (2019): Chaos or opportunity? (Accessed May 17, 2019). https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/escooter-auswirkungen-staedtewandel-101.html. [22.08.2019].
₇ Axel Springer SE (2019): Environmentally friendly electric scooters? It's not that clear-cut (as of May 15, 2019). https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article193547157/Umweltfreundliche-Elektroroller-So-eindeutig-ist-das-nicht.html. [22.08.2019].))
₈ 6t-Bureau de Recherche; PULS Reportage (2019): Juicer self-experiment: charging e-scooters - is it worth it?, YouTube, 21 Aug. 2019, web, 22 Aug. 2019 at 16:52, in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=465&v=hlZqt9lBs8I.