Sorry, scooters aren’t so climate-friendly after all

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A look at the full lifetime emissions of the vehicles call into question the ecological assumptions around “micromobility.”

Bird boasts that its dockless electric scooters allow customers to “cruise past traffic and cut back on CO2 emissions—one ride at a time.”

Its rival Lime claims the vehicles “reduce dependence on personal automobiles for short distance transportation and leave future generations with a cleaner, healthier planet.”

But the mere fact that battery-powered scooters don’t belch pollution out of a tailpipe doesn’t mean they’re “emissions free,” or as “eco-friendly” as some have assumed. The actual climate impact of the vehicles depends heavily on how they’re made, what they’re replacing, and how long they last.

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The electric future will run on two wheels

A fashionable girl sits on her e-bike.  China now has an in

For much of the emerging world, the key to reducing pollution is making the transition to battery-powered motorcycles and scooters.

Even those who can afford cars often prefer two-wheelers.

Given recent market turmoil, it would easy to overlook the upcoming IPO of Niu Technologies, a Chinese manufacturer of electric mopeds. The $95 million the company plans to raise is a pittance compared to the billions burnt by Tesla Inc. But, the technologies developed by Niu and other pioneers of electric two-wheel vehicles will transform transportation as much as anything dreamed up by the likes of Elon Musk.

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The man behind the scooter revolution

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Like so many inventions, the scooter was a child of necessity: Specifically, the need to get a bratwurst without looking like an idiot.

One night in 1990, Wim Ouboter, a Dutch-Swiss banker and amateur craftsman, was “in the mood for a St. Gallen bratwurst at the Sternengrill in Zurich,” or so the story goes. He wanted to get from his house to the brat place and then to a bar, stat, but the stops seemed too far apart to walk, and too close to drive. What he really needed, Ouboter decided, was a mode of transportation that would let him swiftly cover that micro-distance. A bike seemed like too much trouble to take out of the garage. What he wanted was a kick scooter.

Ouboter was a big fan of the mode—he came from a self-described family of “scooter freaks,” and he and his siblings had enjoyed hurtling down hills on clunky wooden kickboards as kids. For a brat-to-beer trip, though, he needed a grown-up upgrade—something durable enough to handle an adult rider, but also small and inconspicuous. “The problem is, if you’re a big guy and you’re riding such a small scooter, people will look at you weird,” he told me. “So you have to make it collapsible in order to bring it into a bar afterwards.

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Segway Driver Becomes First Prosecuted in Britain for Driving on a Public Road

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Segways cannot be driven on public roads in Britain.

Phillip Coates, 51, was on his way to do some shopping when he was flagged down by a policeman and told he was breaking the law.  He was later interviewed and charged with riding a motor vehicle on the pavement under the Highways Act 1835. Mr Coates pleaded not guilty at Barnsley Magistrates Court, paving the way for the first defended prosecution of a Segway rider in the UK.

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