How green are electric scooters? The fleet of dockless vehicles operated by Lime in Washington, DC and Montgomery County, Maryland, is about to get a little greener, the company announced on Thursday: The independent contractors charging scooters for Lime will now receive incentives to use clean energy when "pressing" Their batteries.
In a week full of bad climate news, all efforts to make the transport sector low in carbon are welcome. However, charging the battery is far from being the biggest carbon impact attributed to mobility without a dock. Lime's announcement comes at the heels of a report released in August by North Carolina State University, where researchers discovered that the supply chains that bring scooters to your neighborhoods and pay them exactly the bulk of their CO2 emissions. "(M) aterials and manufacturing costs of the e-scooters and the consequences of transporting the scooters to charging stations for the night" make up 93 percent of the environmental impact of the vehicles, researchers wrote.
However, scooters with 200 grams of CO2 per mile traveled have a CO2 footprint of less than half the size of cars, and their role in replacing car journeys increases their climate credentials. Lime told CityLab that a quarter of the 100 million journeys they have completed so far have been derived from personal or shared vehicles; his competitor Bird, who recently released no data on the number of journeys he facilitated, told Streetsblog L.A. that "a third to half of our scooter trips replace car journeys."
But by tackling the charging element, Lime promotes a greater green goal: stimulating an entire community of "scooter presses" – converting the streets that roam the streets every night looking for dead vehicles to repair – converting them into renewable energy .
"While thinking about micromobility and the role it could play in reducing pollution and tackling climate change, we wanted to think even more broadly," said Carol Browner, EPA director from the Obama era who is now a member of the Lime safety advisory board. "This specific (solution) has a number of additional benefits because it exposes families and people to green energy that may not have been aware of it or was aware of it." Maybe their neighbors will also be inspired to sign up, she said.
To help chargers make the switch, Lime is working with Inspire, a company that offers Netflix-like subscriptions of 100 percent renewable energy to tenants and homeowners. Inspire offers each Lime charger a $ 160 clean energy credit when they sign up, which is deducted from their electricity bill. On average, the deductible should cover one or two months of electricity, Inspire CEO Patrick Maloney said.
Given that it takes less than five cents to charge a scooter, Andrew Savage, Lime & # 39; s head of sustainability, thinks credit will be enough to hit juicers – which he believes are the sustainable promise of have already accepted micromobility – to sign up.
Maloney also believes that electric transportation is the future, but only if it is propelled in clean ways. "If the power source still comes predominantly from carbon-based forms of energy, whether it is coal or natural gas or otherwise, we still see significant problems there," he said. “Forty percent of CO2 emissions come from the electricity sector. If you want to tackle the climate problem, you have to tackle the source. "
D.C. and Maryland were chosen as Lime & # 39; s first charger promotion test markets because they have already committed themselves to ambitious energy targets: the capital utilities will be forced to generate 100 percent renewable energy by 2032; Maryland says it will convert 50 percent of its energy into sustainable energy by 2030. Kalk may scale the initiative nationally or globally, depending on its success.
Cynically, this partnership resembles a company's commitment to outsource a small portion of its environmental bill to cigarette workers, without tackling, for example, major internal issues with production materials. But Savage says it is one of many steps the company is taking to address the environmental impact of the life cycle of each scooter, including extending the life of the vehicles, improving repairability and reuse, and think about recyclability at the end of its life.
The company is already buying renewable energy credits to cover 100% of its load capacity: to date, they have purchased more than 3,600 megawatt hours of solar, wind and small hydropower, Savage says, both through individual contracts and through renewable energy certificates. (Bird also buys renewable energy certificates to make up for charging electricity: "No matter how important REC & # 39; s and offsets are, we really see this as measures to close the room," said Melinda Hanson, head of sustainability and environmental impact of Bird, in a statement to Andrew Small from CityLab: "The most important thing we can do is constantly learn, improve and streamline our sustainability activities, and that is our focus.")
Savage hopes that creating clean energy conversions will ultimately have more external benefits than internal ones.
"The vast majority of the consequences will make the daily life of juicers greener; whether it's charging their cell phone or drying a load of laundry," he said. "It's not (just) about charging scooters – although that is part of it. If we can be a gateway for using more sustainable energy in the community, that's the role we want to play."
Andrew Small has contributed reporting.