In a few years, rental e-scooters have conquered Paris, like many cities across Europe. According to users, they are cheap, fast, pleasant, practical and of course electric. But are they really good for the environment?
The Parisians we met didn’t seem too sure.
“I think it’s good because it only uses electricity,” said one. “It generates carbon dioxide? I didn’t know that,” said another.
“Compared to the metro, I don’t know if there is much difference! said a third.
Six times more CO2 than the metro
Well, there is a difference. A study carried out in Paris showed that at 0.6 kilos of CO2 per ten kilometres, e-scooters emit six times more than the metro, even if it is three times less than the car.
And only 13% of scooter trips would otherwise have been made by car, taxi or bus. Thus, electric scooters mainly replace less polluting means of transport.
The report’s author, Anne de Bortoli, head of carbon neutrality research at the École polytechnique de Montréal, therefore draws a somewhat negative conclusion on the impact of electric scooters, even if in Paris improvements have been made. .
“Today, most operators have successfully reduced the impact of fleet management,” she says.
“And suddenly the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the manufacturing of the scooter. It has a small battery which has a carbon footprint which is not negligible, but the main problem is the aluminum frame which has a very, very high carbon footprint”.
On top of that, there is user abuse. In Paris, Swan Island was renamed Scooter Island by Raphaël and his father, loving fishermen who share their videos on social networks.
“We pulled out at least 170 in about three years,” he says. “I don’t know what they want to do with them, but I don’t see the point of throwing them in the water.
To limit pollution, operators ensure that the batteries are isolated in sealed boxes. But scientists say that perfect protection does not exist.
“We lack studies on how these batteries corrode when left in the environment,” says Jérôme Gaillardet, from the Institut De Physique Du Globe De Paris.
“Probably the most dangerous to the environment are metals like nickel, lead and mercury, which are not present in huge quantities, but do exist in these batteries. But we must not overlook the creation of what we call them nanoparticles, which are small particles that carry metals within them and can penetrate almost all living tissues and contaminate the entire food chain”.
One thing is certain, the e-scooter trade is doing well in Europe with revenues expected to grow annually by around 15% until 2026. But will this really help reduce transport pollution?
This will mainly depend on the efforts made by the companies concerned.
For more on this story, watch the report in the media player above.