Are E-Scooters Good or Bad for the Environment?
Anne de Bortoli of France has won the 2020 Young Researcher of the Year Award of the International Transport Forum for a pioneering 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.
Dr Bortoli will receive the award in an online ceremony on 27 May from ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim. The prize-giving will be followed by an online panel discussion on Dr de Bortoli’s findings with the winner, ITF experts and representatives of shared e-scooter operators.
Since 2008, the ITF Young Researcher Award honours young scientists under 35 years of age for research that supports sound transport policy-making. The award carries a prize of EUR 5 000.
In her winning paper, Dr de Bortoli used a groundbreaking model she developed while at the University of Patras, Greece, 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 (i.e. with no fixed stations) actually led to an 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 in a 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. In cities where public transport is more carbon-intensive, e-scooters may have a beneficial impact on the environment.
Operators can also massively improve the environmental performance of their e-scooters by taking a life-cycle approach. 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 stem from servicing and maintenance, notably because petrol- or diesel-consuming vans are used to collect and redistribute the scooters across a city. Another third of e-scooters’ life-cycle emissions is a result of their design, which uses energy-intensive aluminum and lithium-ion batteries.
The author thus concludes 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.”
Winner Anne 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."
Register here for the award ceremony and panel discussion on “Micromobility and the Environment” with Q+A.
- Sarah Badoux, Sustainability Lead, Voi
- Anne de Bortoli, ITF Young Researcher of the Year 2020
- Pierpaolo Cazzola, Adviser Energy, Technology and Environmental Sustainability, ITF
- Philippe Crist, Adviser Innovation and Foresight, ITF
- Tatiana Samsonova, Policy Analyst, ITF
More information on the award: https://2020.itf-oecd.org/itf-awards