Once billed as an environmentally-friendly and enterprising venture, the electric scooter-sharing micromobility business has not lived up to the promising hype but is now looking dismal. Could this be the end for e-scooters?
By commuting via e-scooters, it was hoped they would reduce traffic volume, promote zero-carbon transport and improve air quality by mitigating pollution. Instead, there have even been numerous complaints regarding cluttered sidewalks and claims about the injuries they cause due to irresponsible riders. Not to mention, they have an average lifespan of less than a month per e-scooter together, with an average of three and a half rides per day, their cost-effectiveness and sustainability are coming into question.
However, e-scooter economics have been grabbing headlines, especially since the two major players, Bird and Lime, are projected to financially lose big time.
Lime, for instance, is experiencing a troubling downturn to the tune of $300 million in operational costs because of “depreciation of its e-scooters and how much it costs to run warehouses that repair and position the vehicles,” according to The Information. Similarly, its competitor, Bird, has likewise lost approximately $100 million in the first quarter of this year while revenues shrank to just $15 million. Consequently, Bird is trying to drum up more investment capital just to stay afloat, thus hinting at the startup’s overvaluation.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the perspective that these e-scooters, despite being electric, are in fact environmentally unfriendly. Repeatedly manufacturing, purchasing, transporting, repairing and replacing a continuous array of e-scooters with short lifespans do not collectively translate to a reduced carbon footprint.
As for those e-scooters that find themselves inoperable and beyond repair from vandalism or theft, their parts are not likely to be recycled but improperly disposed of. Finally, the lithium-ion batteries that power these e-scooters have associated environmental risks, thereby raising concerns about just how eco-friendly they are after all.
Interestingly, e-scooters have now entered the radar of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). “This is a new item coming into scrapyards. ISRI is working to educate its members about e-scooters and advises them to be on the lookout for these devices,” says Mark Carpenter, ISRI assistant vice president of communications and marketing. “Facilities need to be aware the scooters contain batteries that can pose a safety hazard, and those must be removed before handling.”
The environmental hazards that e-scooters pose, coupled with their poor economic feasibility, have understandably sparked skepticism. It remains to be seen whether the labor and cost intensive e-scooter business model will prove to be anything but wasteful in their net sustainability.
Image via Lime