Ujet and SustainAbility have published a study detailing how Europe should open up its consideration of the benefits of e-scooters.
The study highlighted an array of benefits of e-scooters, including their potential as a cost-effective and rapidly scalable solution to social, environmental and economic challenges in cities. The study also outlines that more action is needed to incentivise a switch at scale from conventional vehicles.
The research, which was commissioned by global tech company Ujet and undertaken by consultancy and think tank SustainAbility, finds that the potential benefits of e-scooters will only be realised by cities if there is a rapid and deep transformation of private city vehicle fleets, triggered by a change in policy.
While emissions from other major economic sectors have fallen in recent decades, impacts from mobility have increased. Mobility emissions are currently responsible for roughly 23 per cent of global CO2 emissions and are a key contributor to air pollution in our cities. Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly considered the most viable solution to eliminate mobility emissions and improve air quality. The report emphasises the benefits of e-scooters and other EVs, noting that replacing 80 per cent of vehicles on the road with EVs by 2050 would cut emissions of NOx, PM, and SO2 by more than 80 per cent in comparison with 2010 levels.
It also demonstrates that being inactive is not an option. At present, nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. This causes 556,000 premature deaths in Europe attributable to ambient air and household pollution.
In Barcelona alone, it is estimated that 3,500 premature deaths are related to air pollution. Beyond that, congestion in cities costs the European economy over one per cent of its GDP every year. Paris is the third most congested city in Europe with traffic increasing travel time by around 40 minutes each day and with a total cost of €9.9 billion per year.
Shifts towards electric cars and buses are at the centre of advocacy and discussions, however, cost-effectiveness and scalability present barriers to successful EV adoption. The report finds the spatial benefits of e-scooters, including minimal infrastructure and storage requirements, make them an easily scalable clean mobility option. A total of 10 e-scooters can be parked in every car parking spot, and a 10 per cent switch from cars to e-scooters would reduce congestion by 40 per cent – helping to tackle the largest source of air pollution.
Hugues Despres, CEO, Ujet International, says: “Existing urban mobility solutions can’t keep up with the growth of our cities and are not addressing the challenges of increasing congestion and pollution. The only answer is to redefine urban mobility by making a product that is more relevant to the problem, and then to scale that new solution at pace. It is a question of making urban transport truly fit for the future. Our mission is to enable individuals to change their relationship with the cities they inhabit, and we are excited to work with cities to improve mobility, convenience and sustainability.”
Alexandra Brill, manager at SustainAbility, adds: “Rapid rates of urbanisation driven by population growth means that cities will increasingly become the nexus at which stresses on environment, health and wellbeing meet. In the context of these issues, electric vehicles have a significant role to play in addressing urban mobility challenges, yet the conversation too often focuses narrowly on cars – excluding other low-impact technologies.
“Our research suggests that e-scooters present an effective and scalable solution not only to the challenges of pollution but also congestion in our cities. We believe more research and discussion on the potential benefits of e-scooters is needed to address existing knowledge gaps; and policy incentives should be expanded to be inclusive of not only electric cars but also e-scooters and other low-impact options.”
SustainAbility ranked nine modes of urban transport against its framework for sustainable mobility, finding that e-scooters offer maximum social and environmental benefits to cities. Benchmarks used to rank different solutions – which include cars, buses, trains, scooters and bikes – covered sustainability, inclusivity, efficiency and safety. Of a total 39 points available, the benefits of e-scooters scored 37, while e-cars scored 28 points, and conventional scooters scored 26 points.
City authorities and governments are already exploring options for more sustainable mobility. Initiatives identified around the world include vehicle-sharing schemes, traffic management systems and improved integration of different mobility modes. In 2017, 12 cities, including Milan, Paris and Barcelona, signed the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration, pledging to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and to ensure a major area of their city is zero emission by 2030. While many EU, national and municipal policy measures focus on electric cars and public transport, more initiatives that actively promote the benefits of e-scooters in cities are needed.
Governments and cities have powerful policy tools available to them to incentivise even greater change. Examples cited in the study include:
- Provision of grants and tax incentives that encourage purchasing of e-scooters;
- Progressive phase out of conventional scooters by 2040;
- Allocation of free parking spaces for e-scooters;
- E-scooter roll out targets to focus city efforts for accelerated e-scooter adoption;
- Development of dedicated road infrastructure for e-scooters; and
- Integration of individual EVs into urban mobility systems to encourage eco-friendly behaviour (for example introduction of reduced tariffs for e-scooter users on public transport).
If we are to meet our 2°C climate targets under the Paris Agreement, emissions strategies must seek to implement scalable low and zero carbon mobility solutions at pace.
- Research from Ujet and SustainAbility finds policy incentives at city, national and EU-levels should be expanded beyond electric cars to highlight the benefits of e-scooters and other low-impact transport options to improve urban living conditions and meet climate targets.
- Transport represents 23 per cent of global CO2 emissions, whilst also being a source of other dangerous emissions like NOx, particulate matter, and SO2.
- 80 per cent of city dwellers are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organisation limits and ultimately leads to dramatic impacts on health and quality of life.
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