Just how energy efficient are Electric Scooters? (hint: very)

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

There are plenty of companies making idealistic claims of being environmentally friendly and reducing emissions through their deployment of scooters. We decided to go a step further and take a look at the numbers ourselves.

For the purposes of these calculations, we're using the specs of the Levy model that we are selling on our website, which is comparable in both speed and power to many of the scooters that companies like Bird, Lime, Spin, Uber, and Lyft are deploying in cities across the US.

We'll be looking at both emissions and cost efficiency in our analysis. For the first, we'll divide the battery capacity by the range, resulting in energy use per mile, and then multiply this result by the emissions per watt-hour of the NYC electric grid (~0.1993 grams of CO2 per watt-hour).

The Levy electric scooter has 15 miles of range with a total battery capacity of 230.4 Watt-hours, or a total energy consumption of ~15.3 watt-hours per mile. Translating to CO2 emissions (assuming the scooter is being charged in New York) this is roughly 3.05 grams of CO2 released per mile travelled.

Let's see how this compares to other modes of transport, using data sourced from the Carbon Fund. These numbers are calculated based on per passenger miles, meaning each individual passenger's share of the output, assuming an average vehicle size (i.e. 240 seat airplane) is filled to capacity.

As you can see, scooters are by far the most efficient form of transportation - emitting around 1% of the CO2 it would take a car to travel the same distance. This shouldn't be surprising as the average American car weighs around 4000 pounds, about 25 times more than the person it carries - and most of the car’s energy is used to move the vehicle itself. The Levy electric scooter weighs just 27 pounds and runs off an efficient electric motor.

While it's good to be green, sometimes we're also concerned about the costs of operating such a vehicle. Let's dig a little bit deeper to see how the cost of powering an electric scooter compares to other modes of transport.

In New York, the average retail price of a kWh of electricity is 14.74 cents. To fully charge a 230 watt-hour scooter it then costs (14.74 kWh / 1000) * 230, or ~3.4 cents. Assuming an average trip range of 2 miles, it costs less than half a cent for a single ride on an electric scooter.

Let's see how this compares to a regular gasoline car (assuming 28 mpg) and a Tesla Model S (which is rated at 32 kWh per 100 miles) taking into account the current average price of fuel.

An electric scooter beats a gas car by a factor of over 40x, and is incredibly cheap to operate. Compact, dense lithium-ion batteries (the same type used in electric scooters, Teslas, and Apple products) have become extremely efficient over the last several years. In fact, when I was working at Opower we found that it only costs an average user $0.47 to charge their iPhone for an entire year.

It's important to note that with the majority of electric scooters you see on the streets there are additional costs and emissions related to managing those fleets. These scooters must be picked up, charged, and redistributed to new locations based on demand (often times by large passenger vans). But, it's a good first step to reducing both traffic and emissions in many large cities.

Thanks for reading!

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