E-scooter life-cycle emissions study recognised by jury of transport experts

Posted: 26 May 2020 |

A French scientist has won the International Transport Forum 2020 Young Researcher of the Year Award for her study on life-cycle emissions of shared e-scooters.

E-scooter life-cycle emissions study recognised by jury of transport experts

Anne de Bortoli from the University of Patras, Greece has won the 2020 Young Researcher of the Year Award of the International Transport Forum (ITF) for a study on the environmental impact of shared e-scooters.

The winner was chosen by a jury of international transport experts from 51 submissions representing 22 nationalities from five continents, and she will receive a price of €5,000.

In her winning paper, de Bortoli used a model she developed to quantify the ecological impact of the emergence of shared e-scooters in the city of Paris, France. The study found that the introduction of “free-floating” shared scooters (with no fixed stations) led to an overall increase of greenhouse gas emissions of 12,000 tonnes over the course of a year.

It also concluded, however, that the factors leading to this increased carbon footprint are highly dependent on the specific mobility patterns within a given city.

In the case of Paris, urban dwellers used e-scooters mainly to replace walking, cycling and Metro trips. Because electrified public transport in Paris is powered mostly by nuclear energy, its carbon footprint is already low, whereas in cities where public transport is more carbon-intensive, e-scooters may have a beneficial impact on the environment, the paper explained.

It also highlighted that operators can massively improve the environmental performance of their e-scooters by taking a life-cycle approach, and that it is not sufficient to increase the lifetime mileage of scooters. One third of the GHG emission changes due to the Parisian e-scooters’ disruption stemmed from servicing and maintenance, notably because petrol- or diesel-consuming vans were used to collect and redistribute the scooters across a city. Another third of e-scooters’ life-cycle emissions was said to be a result of their design, which uses energy-intensive aluminium and lithium-ion batteries.

de Bortoli concluded  that e-scooters definitely have a role to play in the greening of urban mobility, if the parameters are set in the right way.

ITF Secretary-General, Young-Tae Kim, said: “Many decision-makers are uncertain whether shared e-scooters will bring environmental benefits to their city. This award-winning study shows that they can indeed, and under which circumstances.

“Anne de Bortoli’s research brilliantly tackles an often-overlooked aspect, the indirect environmental impacts of transport disruptions in urban mobility. Her analysis will allow local authorities to assess the environmental benefits of micro-mobility on the basis of solid scientific evidence.”

de Bortoli said: “I am honoured to be awarded this prestigious prize, and I am even more delighted that a paper advocating for a holistic environmental appraisal of mobility caught the interest of the jury.

“We urgently need to use science-based assessments to design our public policies, to avoid preconceived ideas about what is ‘green’ or not. What is good for the environment in one particular country or city can be harmful elsewhere. 

“In this sense, we, the environmental researchers, are craftsmen of knowledge, and it is our responsibility to accompany public authorities and companies in moving towards tailor-made, and hence effective, actions.”