E-scooters are reducing congestion and pollution in cities, new study shows

E-scooters can provide “significant benefits” in terms of congestion, time savings, emissions reduction and cutting car use, according to new research conducted by University College London (UCL) researchers.

The study was commissioned by shared e-scooter company Voi but was independent and not influenced by provider.

Using data taken from 190,000 e-scooters trips in Bristol over a three-month period, the study found the adoption of e-scooters reduced greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45% overall compared to the trips they replaced.

Researchers also found that e-scooters cut commuting times, especially during peak hours, helping to save users a total of 4,000 hours during the course of the study.

In addition, e-scooter trips replaced more than 30,000 miles of motorised transport journeys, helping to reduce pollution and congestion in the city.

This latest study, by researchers from the Energy Institute at UCL, is one of the first academic studies into e-scooter use that incorporates a first hand environmental assessment of the service and uses real world trip data – and also takes into account emissions created from the factory floor to end of life for e-scooters.

One of the study’s authors, Emmanouil Chaniotakis,said: “Essentially, the findings suggest that shared e-scooters have the potential to provide significant benefits in terms of mode shift, congestion, time savings and emissions reduction if implemented effectively.

“By replacing trips previously taken by more polluting modes of transportation, shared e-scooters can reduce emissions and congestion during peak periods.

“Local governments should make sure that they invest in those shared e-scooter programmes which are well-regulated and show proof of good fleet management and maintenance, leading to high kilometre lifespan, responsible end-of-life practices and efficient operations.

“Local governments should also introduce and monitor compliance regarding operations, use, manufacturing and end-of-life practices. To see a greater impact, they could also work with e-scooter companies to incentivise more effective use (e.g. reduced fares over peak hours or demand-informed deployment that complements Public Transport and supports active travel) to reduce congestion and emissions”

Using data from e-scooter trials run by UK’s leading shared e-scooter company, Voi, the study analysed over 190,000 e-scooter trips taken in Bristol over a three-month period in 2021 to examine VOI e-scooters’ environmental impact of and included emissions for the whole life cycle of different types of transport, from manufacture to end of life disposal.

The types of e-scooter trips analysed included not only those that replaced motorised transport such as cars, buses and taxis, which see a much bigger reduction in emissions, but walking and cycling too, which create a small increase in emissions, resulting in an overall reduction of 45%

The study found that emissions savings are positive in scenarios with average or long vehicle lifespan (over 6,500 km) and with average or better operational efficiency. Voi has invested in both areas to minimise its footprint and maximise environmental benefits for cities and communities.

Reducing car dependency and decarbonising urban transport is seen as a vital step in achieving the UK government’s goal of achieving net zero and improving the well-being and efficiency of cities.

In addition, congestion has a significant economic burden, costing the UK economy around £6.9 billion a year according to a 2019 INRIX study.

Read more: Brompton offers mayors e-bikes to replace polluting vehicles on Clean Air Day

Jack Samler, Voi general manager UK, Ireland and France, said, “It’s great to see the massive impact e-scooters can have in transforming cities, reducing emissions and cleaning up the air around us.

“At Voi, we have invested in building durable e-scooters and ensuring they provide as many rides as possible to reduce their impact throughout their whole life cycle. We are committed to managing our operations as efficiently and sustainably as possible.

“We aim to transform how people move in cities, freeing us from car dependency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, working all the time to reduce the environmental impact of our value chain and operations in the process.”


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