In the last few years, micromobility has taken transportation by storm. A flurry of scooter companies, including Lime, Bird, and Jump rose quickly to prominence. They sold an ambitious dream to make last-mile transportation environmentally sustainable, affordable, and efficient. That dream we bought.
From college towns to major cities, rentable electric bikes and scooters have become ubiquitous. And with the rise of the trend, larger companies like Uber followed suit. So in 2018, Uber bought Jump. While the two years that followed showed no growth limit in sight, Covid-19 had everything crashing down.
Uber recently sold its Jump business to Lime, and invested in the latter at a significantly reduced valuation. This left Uber with a lot of spare inventory — and that led the company to the alarming decision of scrapping between 20,000 and 30,000 bikes and scooters.
While one of micromobility’s key selling points is being a sustainable alternative to other forms of travel. But Uber’s decision calls that messaging into question.
The environmental benefits of micromobility
While mobility has a variety of environmental benefits, the clearest have to do with emissions and power usage. Specifically, swappable battery scooters can reduce emissions by 51%. And the reduced congestion in cities spurred by bikes and scooters offers a safer environment — physically and sustainably.
Many companies in the space have also been developing models that have longer lifetimes before requiring recharging. These developments often mean more rides provided by the same fleet size. And increased utilization often means increased energy efficiency.
A recent study also corroborates the benefits of micromobility, measuring the environmental benefits of micromobility through the metric of “CO2 grams equivalent per person per kilometer.”
A e-scooter model emits a maximum of 67 CO2 grams per person per kilometer, whereas a car uses a max of 300 CO2 grams. Through this metric, cars can emit over 4 times more than an electric scooter, which has big implications on short trips.
Uber’s decision to scrap significant inventory is backpedals on sustainable transportation’s progress
Once Uber sold its Jump business to Lime, the company was left with many of the older and less-ridden models. When recent videos emerged of Jump’s spare bike parts being loaded in trucks to be scrapped, there were many voices of disapproval.
Many believe that Uber could have found better ways to use the bikes. Critics voiced that Uber could have donated the bikes or sent them in for repairs. Spin, a scooter company owned by Ford, donated 20% of its bicycles when the company switched over to bikes.
Sonia John is a Writer at The Rising mainly covering the intersection of businesses and sustainability. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.