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E-scooters and sustainability

Are e-scooters sustainable? Advantages & disadvantages at a glance

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 would like to tell you more about the definition, advantages and disadvantages of e-scooters and show you how environmentally friendly they actually are.

What are e-scooters anyway?

The e-scooters (or also called electric pedal scooters) are in principle ordinary scooters, with the subtle difference that they are Electric motor and are not driven by foot pedal. In Germany's major cities, they have been available for hire for some time now as part of the sharing economy. Payment is based on usage time. With the respective provider's app, the e-scooter can be easily located, unlocked and - powered by electric energy - simply used.

The e-scooters are primarily intended to CO2.reduce emissions and particulate matter pollution in city centers, relieve traffic congestion, reduce the shortage of parking spaces and save a lot of time.

Advantages and disadvantages of e-scooters

With the advantages and disadvantages of the new-fangled e-scooters, we are slowly approaching 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 a clear overview of my thoughts on e-scooters as follows. They illustrate why opinions always fluctuate between a blessing and a curse.

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 14-year-olds.₁
  • Flexibility: They can be found in many places in the city, so you can get from A to B quickly and also take the scooter home to recharge.
  • Compact: An e-scooter weighs around 10 kg and is relatively easy to carry. As it is very narrow, you can easily fit through any gap.
  • Night drive: If there are no more streetcars at night, you can get home relatively quickly and easily on an e-scooter.
  • Figurehead: The simple use of an e-scooter with the provider's app brings people 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 other side. The following disadvantages illustrate why e-scooters are also heavily criticized.

  • environmental damage: The short service life, the German electricity mix with a still high proportion of coal and nuclear power as well as lithium batteries from dangerous and nature-destroying open-cast mining are just a few examples.
  • Purpose of e-scooters: If the scooters only replaced car journeys, they would be sustainable. Unfortunately, this is not the case in practice. Instead, walking, cycling and train journeys are being replaced. The lack of exercise is likely to lead to increasing health problems in the long term.
  • Risk of accident: According to the DGU (German Society for Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery), e-scooters pose a considerable risk of accidents. The running boards are deep, so that the foot quickly gets caught underneath.
  • Price: The TIER e-scooter costs €0.19 per minute of use, which is around €11.40 per hour. Depending on how long you want to ride it, the rental can therefore be relatively expensive.₃
  • Harassment: The resentment in society about the scooters is exacerbated by the fact that the scooters are in the way or their users ride them around uncontrolled and without observing the traffic rules.
  • Usage behavior: Not everyone treats the borrowed electric pedal scooters with care. The devices are often dumped in rivers or left blocking entrances and walkways after use.
  • Weather dependency: The scooters are not always used. It is to be expected that the use of e-scooters will decrease significantly both in the rain and generally in the cold season.
  • Traffic Obstacle: The scooters are approved for road use. As they only travel at around 11 km/h, whereas bicycles can easily reach twice that speed, they are a traffic obstacle on the road that slows you down.

Why e-scooters are unfortunately not sustainable

E-scooters and sustainability under criticism

Of course, an e-scooter offers a great deal of flexibility - but the providers are wrongly and probably knowingly greenwashing their new road users with the sustainability aspect.

  • Only just over 40% of the electricity mix in Germany comes from renewable energies₄
  • Many devices are willfully destroyed.₅
  • On average, a scooter should last around 3 months - then it is e-waste. In Louisville (USA), a survey showed that e-scooters only last 29 days - in other words, they don't even last a whole month.₆
  • Raw materials such as cobalt have to be mined for the batteries. In the Congo, workers toil under inhumane conditions. What's more, production in China generally only works with high energy consumption - with energy from coal-fired power plants.₇
  • A study in France found that scooter journeys only replaced 8% car journeys.₈

If they only replaced car journeys, we could certainly talk about sustainable e-scooters. And that's exactly what they're supposed to be for - but unfortunately the reality is different.

Unfortunately, e-scooters 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 - even 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 cycle paths will be expanded and public transport will become much cheaper instead.

Do you have any questions, suggestions or your own experiences on the subject of e-scooters and sustainability that you would like to share? Then please leave a comment below this article.

Stay clean,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Feel free to look at the Sustainability Blog from CareElite. There you will find many more Tips for sustainable living. In line with the article, I recommend, for example, the articles 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 (as of 02.03.2019). [22.08.2019].

₂ SPIEGEL ONLINE GmbH & Co. KG (2019): Trauma surgeons warn against stand-up electric scooters (as of 17.05.2019). [22.08.2019].

₃ CHIP Digital GmbH: TIER: Costs for e-scooter rental at a glance (as of 13.08.2019).

₄ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (2019): Green electricity share in Germany exceeded 40 percent for the first time in 2018 (as at: 03.01.2019) [09.08.2019].

₅ STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H (2019): Hatred of e-scooters: Instagram account celebrates destruction of the devices (as of: 12.07.2019). [22.08.2019].

₆ Marks, M.; Norddeutscher Rundfunk (2019): Chaos or opportunity? (Status: 17.05.2019). [22.08.2019].

₇ Axel Springer SE (2019): Environmentally friendly electric scooters? It's not that clear-cut (as of May 15, 2019). [22.08.2019].))

₈ 6t-Bureau de Recherche; PULS Reportage (2019): Juicer self-experiment: Charging an e-scooter - is it worth it?, YouTube, 21.08.2019, Web, 22.08.2019 at 16:52, in:

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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