The Sustainability Challenges of E-Scooters

Scooters have helped diversify the mobility landscape, but companies need to better address the recycling and reuse process and the environmental impacts of defunct devices.

1 minute read

August 6, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink


Valencia, Spain

YakyCorbalan / Shutterstock

Katie Pyzyk writes about life-span and end-of-life issues related to dockless scooters and the steps companies such as Lyft, Bird, and Lime are taking to address these concerns.

The life span of e-scooters is fairly short—a Boston Consulting Group report estimates the average life span is just three months, due partly to the fact that the devices are heavily used and endure a great deal of wear and tear. Sustainability concerns aside, the short life span and replacement costs affect the profitability of companies.

"Nearly all the major operators have announced efforts recently to ruggedize their devices and extend the life span. This includes more robust tires, sturdier bodies, improved brakes and longer battery life," notes Pyzyk.

The end-of-life processing of e-scooters—both recycling and reuse—is another issue, particularly the handling of hazardous electric batteries.

In addition to waste and disposal concerns, vandalism of e-scooters has posed sustainability challenges. For example, county sheriffs pulled 50 scooters from the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, in June. "Divers were concerned the batteries would leak into the river. It’s unclear who put the scooters there or when, but some of them showed signs of rust," says Pyzyk.

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