Electric scooters may seem climate-friendly since they don’t belch tailpipe emissions like cars, but riding a scooter typically has a fairly high carbon footprint. One recent study that tallied up the environmental impact of making a scooter, transporting it, and using it (including all of the trips made by trucks to pick up the scooters for charging) concluded that the carbon footprint of riding one is higher than riding on a full city bus or riding a bike—and in many cases, someone on a scooter would have walked if the scooter wasn’t available.
A new scooter from Skip is designed to be more sustainable. Two factors are key. “One is the amount of miles we’re putting on to things like vans and trucks to move the vehicles around the city and to recharge them,” says CEO and cofounder Sanjay Dastoor. “And the second is the rate at which we’re throwing parts away or replacing parts on these vehicles because they’re wearing out or they’re getting damaged or getting vandalized.”
To tackle the problem of charging, the new design uses swappable batteries, so the whole scooter doesn’t need to move to be charged. Since the batteries take less space, the company is considering using an electric cargo bike to make the rounds and replace batteries in a downtown neighborhood. “You’re not actually adding car miles to the road, but you’re still able to cover those distances, perhaps even faster than you could with something like a van or a truck,” Dastoor says.
The modular design means that the battery and other parts can be replaced or repaired if something goes wrong, rather than replacing the whole scooter. “That actually turns out to also be more sustainable both from a business perspective in terms of less cost but also from an environmental perspective of just not throwing away as many as many parts,” he says. Systems on the scooter automatically notifies the company when something needs repair. Everything is also designed for durability, another important factor in the carbon footprint—some other scooters may last as little as a month.
The scooter, called the S3, is going through final testing now and will begin a beta public rollout in San Francisco this fall.