Electric scooters, or e-scooters if you prefer, appear to be taking over our streets. On the face of things, they seem to be environmentally friendly. After all, they produce zero emissions while they are being driven, so they must be good for the environment, right?

The truth is, it’s a little from column A and a little from column B in terms of whether they are good or bad for the environment. Let’s look at the reasons why.

The Environmental Impact of E-Scooters

When they are in use, the environmental impact of an e-scooter is minimal. They produce zero emissions because they run on batteries and go some way in helping to reduce poor air quality and urban congestion. However, environmental impact doesn’t begin when something is being used. It starts from the manufacturing process, moves on to its use and ends with its lifecycle or ability to be recycled.


The first thing to consider is what an e-scooter is made of. Most electric scooters are made of aluminium which is relatively energy-intensive to mine. However, recycling aluminium requires a fraction of the energy it takes to extract it. But, some scooters use carbon fibre, which is a plastic composite and is next to impossible to recycle.

Then there is the battery that powers the motor, which is typically lithium iron phosphate. These batteries are a hot topic for people using electric cars because the mining and production process creates high CO2 emissions.

Battery charging and replacement

Not only is it important to factor in the manufacturing materials, but the way the battery is charged, replaced and recycled also matters. Using renewable energy to charge an e-scooter is obviously a good thing but considering that most households in the UK don’t, then recharging adds to the environmental burden.

However, commercial e-scooters are typically collected in vehicles that burn fossil fuels, further adding to the problem. Only by changing the charging infrastructure can the impact of e-scooters on the environment be reduced. Additionally, using one of these scooters to replace walking or public transport only adds to the problem.

E-Scooter Emissions

It’s easy to see the appeal of electric scooters for people looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Substituting a fossil-fuel-powered car journey for one by electric scooter won’t be pumping additional fumes into the atmosphere. But there is a trade-off due to the energy involved in charging them versus say a bicycle or a skateboard which only require some human exertion.

City Commuting and Cleaner Air

Perhaps the place that benefits the most from electric scooters is the city. With commuters ditching their cars for e-scooters, the general emissions levels pumped into the air can be reduced. Not only do they remove emissions while in use, but they also reduce noise pollution in congested areas.

As they are so nimble, e-scooters also help to reduce bulky traffic on the roads. Approximately 68 per cent of Brits drive their car to work, and if the number of cars on the road can be reduced then our air will be cleaner. Long-term exposure to traffic air pollution may increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The capital’s Traffic for London (TFL) service offers e-scooter rental in parts of the city but it only allows its vehicles to take to the roads. This is because speeds are capped at 12.5 mph and automatically reduced in low-speed zones to 8 mph.

A burden on resources?

The risk of injury is high with an e-scooter driven on the road as there is no protection offered to riders. Accidents may lead to claims for injury compensation by riders but the real cost will likely be passed on to the NHS.

In the 12 months that ended in June 2021, there were 882 accidents involving e-scooters. From those accidents, there were 931 casualties and three deaths. The DfT also estimates that 253 were seriously injured through riding an e-scooter.

What is the Lifespan of an E-Scooter?

When considering the environmental impact of an e-scooter it’s important to measure it against other vehicles and modes of transport. Experts estimate that the lifespan of a rental e-scooter is about one year, with approximately a few hundred kilometres being the limit of their contribution.

If you compare this with an electric car, which is commonly good for a minimum of 100,000 kilometres, or 10 years, then maybe they are not so good after all. Furthermore, e-scooters are capable of carrying just one person, the rider, while cars typically seat five.

Finding the balance

The environmental impact of products, vehicles and services are no longer skin deep and we must consider their wider effects; from manufacturing to lifespan and destruction. There is a place for e-scooters among eco-conscious riders but to maintain a low impact on the environment they must become longer-lasting to justify manufacturing them.

Charging them using renewable energy ensures a low impact while replacing walking with riding an e-scooter increases the impact. It’s important to find a balance to ensure the environmental impact of an electric scooter is kept to a minimum.