A new report into micromobility lifespans has found that today’s shared e-scooters last up to five-times longer the early models.
US-based mobility consulting firm Brightside has released the first comprehensive report into e-bike and e-scooter longevity, assessing the average lifespan of Voi’s shared e-scooters.
The report, titled ‘How Long do E-scooters Last?’, proposes that e-scooter operators collect more in-depth data on the lifetime of e-scooter batteries and frames.
Pierpaolo Cazzola, independent consultant and lead author of the OECD’s International Transport Forum report ‘Good to Go?’, says: “In the early days of the industry, a trip on shared electric micromobility was barely more sustainable than a car when total lifecycle was considered. This analysis confirms that taking meaningful steps to improve vehicle lifespan can improve this equation. Further improvements are also possible optimising the way vehicles are serviced and integrating micromobility services with public transport, so that they have greater chances to displace trips that would otherwise occur by car. It is great to see that Voi is favouring greater data transparency to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. This is what all operators should do”.
Using data from Swedish micromobility operator Voi, Brightside proposed a methodology to measure the longevity of fleets.
The analysis finds that longer lifespans are largely attributable to improvements in vehicle design and circularity, including increasing the diameter of the neck and increasing the use of modular parts. Other factors include proactive maintenance practices to ensure vehicles receive regular tune-ups, and the addition of GPS technology to improve vehicle retention, among other factors. To continue improving sustainability in the industry, the authors recommend that Voi, and all e-scooter operators, collect more granular data on the lifespan of e-scooter frames and batteries, and use this information to improve design and operations further. The authors recommend that all operators adopt this approach to calculating lifespan, and be transparent in sharing this information with the cities in which they operate.
Sarah Badoux, Voi’s head of sustainability, said: “Voi has set ambitious environmental targets and we’re improving our sustainability data collection. We are currently working toward a circular supply chain that will reduce waste by 50% by 2025. This report and methodology will help us to better understand and improve vehicle lifespan and be more transparent with our stakeholders.”
Using this methodology, the report estimates that Voi’s Voiager 4, the e-scooter model launched in 2021, has a lifespan of 4.6 years (6,529 km) for the frame and 3.7 years (103.4 kWh) for each battery. This is about 5x longer than the vehicle models used when Voi launched in 2018. The Voiager 5 which Voi launched in March 2022 has an estimated lifespan of five years, based the same model, due to improvements in design and proactive maintenance.
Chris Cherry, professor at the University of Tennessee, said: “My research shows that electric micromobility is significantly more sustainable than most conventional forms of transportation and can replace car trips. While the shared electric scooter industry had some early missteps, I am convinced operators like Voi are on the right track, and hope that cities will take note and do more to support the continued expansion of small electric vehicles.”
Brightside said that research demonstrates that micromobility is a good option for up to 60% of urban journeys in European cities. Despite this promise, the sustainability benefits of e-scooters have been questioned due to reports about short vehicle lifespan in the industry’s early days, when micromobility operators used off-the-shelf models. Though the industry has since introduced commercial-grade e-scooters, there has not been a standard methodology for assessing fleet average lifespan, a key input for lifecycle assessments (LCA)—the standard approach for determining the relative sustainability of transport modes.
Melinda Hanson, principal at Brightside, says: “This analysis shows that Voi has significantly extended its vehicle lifespan, which is essential for environmental sustainability and for operating a profitable business. I commend Voi for supporting this research and adopting a more transparent approach to data collection and reporting, and hope it will inspire other operators to follow suit.”