Carbon Negative: Introducing Our Plan to Achieve Net Negative Emissions by 2025
August 4, 2020
By Shivam Vohra, Senior Program Manager of Sustainability Initiatives
At Spin we constantly push ourselves to look for more holistic ways to measure our success in solving urban transportation problems. Fundamental metrics like ridership, fleet size, and app engagement are important to the growth of every mobility operator. However, at Spin we have long been committed to mapping our growth to the most pressing problems facing cities today, and making electric scooters a true transportation solution.
Our big picture approach to transportation drives the initiatives we choose to tackle. For example, Spin’s innovative Streets program works with cities and community partners to develop safe, livable, and just infrastructure projects. In addition, the Spin Access program allows us to examine transportation equity within our service areas, and charts a product pathway to broaden access to Spin for the people who rely on us the most. These initiatives help encourage more people to use sustainable modes of transportation for short trips, instead of relying on personal cars.
Today, Spin is announcing our ambitious global sustainability program, setting an industry-leading goal to become carbon negative by 2025, removing more emissions from existing transportation ecosystems than we produce in providing our service. This program includes initiatives for electrified operations, renewable power, lower manufacturing impacts, and aggressive mode shift away from private automobiles. Spin aims to establish a new precedent as a mobility operator and community partner, and prove that micromobility is a powerful, transparent, and accountable ally in the fight against climate change.
Our first step at Spin is an ongoing internal audit of our carbon emissions across each aspect of the business in line with Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This “carbon accounting” process provides a baseline understanding of our current emissions performance as a company in manufacturing, operations, and power, and helps us identify our greatest opportunities for improvement.
While this carbon accounting is ongoing, we have already charted our initial path towards achieving our carbon negative goal. This starts with purchasing carbon offsets and achieving neutrality as soon as our accounting is complete for each part of our business, and then focuses on delivering the most impactful work in reducing and removing emissions entirely. Finally, collaborating with cities to create a seamless multimodal journey so that more people are willing to use micromobility to connect to public transit rather than relying on private vehicles will be critical in achieving our carbon negative goal.
The Spin sustainability program consists of comprehensive, data-driven initiatives across our business, operations, and ridership over the next five years:
Transition operations to 100 percent plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.
Most micromobility operations today, ours included, rely on mostly gasoline or diesel vans to transport electric scooters around cities for deployment, maintenance, and recharging activity. These operations emissions must be counted when assessing whether micromobility is a sustainable mode of transportation. Ford Motor Company, Spin’s parent company, is leading the way in introducing new vehicles for cleaner commercial fleets worldwide, including its newly launched Ford Transit plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) van and upcoming Ford Transit fully battery electric (BEV) van. These vehicles not only minimize reliance on fossil fuels, but are also equipped with powerful technology to track critical sustainability data, facilitate more efficient operations, and even automatically enter electric-only mode within cities’ low emission zones and downtown cores. Spin will adopt these cutting edge fleet vehicles for micromobility operations in Europe starting in 2021 and in the United States in 2022, with 100 percent adoption across all Spin markets by 2025.
Transition power for recharging to 100 percent renewable energy.
Using an electric vehicle is not enough to make a trip sustainable. We must also look at the energy sources for charging our batteries, which often include fossil fuels. While the power used for recharging Spin scooters is likely only a small fraction of our carbon footprint, transitioning away from coal and other fossil fuels for electricity is still an important step for us at Spin and an opportunity to lead by example in the communities we live in and serve.
We are evaluating power sources for each of our warehouses and Spin Hubs — our curbside parking and charging infrastructure for Spin scooters — and transitioning all utility agreements to 100 percent renewable power sources where available. In some locations, Spin will sign up for Community Choice Aggregation programs, which allow consumers like Spin to opt in to cleaner energy sources. In other locations, Spin may obtain Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECs are a method for purchasing clean energy attributes from existing solar and wind projects where clean energy isn’t readily available from local utilities. Spin will make every effort to purchase RECs that benefit the same metropolitan areas where renewable energy purchases are not available at the time.
Our target is to transition the majority of our power consumption to renewable energy by 2021, and achieve 100 percent transition by 2025.
Integrate rider mode shift as a core company sustainability metric.
Cities are continually working to reduce automobile vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through progressive land use, infrastructure, and new mobility policy. Similarly, Spin designs its micromobility service not just to grow our ridership and our business, but to do so in a way that also reduces dependence on automobiles for short trips and complements transit, biking, and walking. To do this, we must understand how mode shift is occurring and collaborate with cities to continue increasing it.
As part of our new sustainability program, we are building powerful data-driven internal tools to understand how well Spin is achieving mode shift both for individual cities as well as globally. Spin aims to use this data both for improving our core service and sharing it with cities to help them understand our performance in increasing mode shift. Accurate mode shift data will support our carbon accounting measurements over time. We will be able to convert that mode shift to carbon emission reductions and share that data with cities.
In addition to capturing and integrating mode shift data, we are working to understand how trends within the data can support intersecting planning efforts, such as Vision Zero, improving socio-economic equity, and building healthy Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) ecosystems like our participation in the Pittsburgh Mobility Collective. Our sustainability efforts will complement our leadership in partnering with communities to advocate for safer streets projects. This includes Build a Better Barrier, a competition to rethink protected bikeway infrastructure, an international pop-up parklet competition to reclaim street space for e-scooter parking and charging in Denver, CO, and a protected intersection to improve safety for people biking and walking in Salt Lake City, UT. These projects are critical to setting a precedent for quickly building better infrastructure for biking, walking, and micromobility and will encourage more people to use alternative modes of transportation in urban centers.
Achieve a minimum 24 month lifetime for Spin vehicles and 100 percent landfill diversion.
Currently, the largest contributor to carbon emissions for micromobility is in manufacturing and disposal, and specifically how long a vehicle lasts before needing to be replaced. Therefore, a critical component of Spin’s sustainability program is to generate more robust data around the lifetime of vehicles and individual components. We plan to use this to identify and drive critical improvements across hardware, operations, and supply chain teams to extend the lifetime of every scooter to an average of at least 24 months. Achieving this important target may reduce our overall carbon footprint by more than 40 percent according to our initial internal analysis.
In addition, while our manufacturing supply chain is an important component of our sustainability program, we also acknowledge that supply chains are incredibly complex and it can be difficult to assess their emissions. Each Spin scooter is composed of manufactured parts that can have a variety of vendor sources. Spin will explore ways to deepen our understanding of our current vendors’ emissions footprints, identify opportunities to improve those footprints to the extent that we can, and choose to work with environmentally responsible vendors that match our level of commitment to sustainability. Simultaneously, we will initiate more sophisticated life cycle assessments of our scooters such that we can better understand the relative emissions impacts of individual parts, especially batteries, and develop operations and hardware initiatives to prioritize extending the lives of those parts specifically.
Today, Spin reuses approximately 70 percent of a decommissioned vehicle’s components to repair other vehicles. Any parts not able to be reused are processed through an approved R2 Certified supplier who ensures 98 to 100 percent of all materials are properly recycled. We are expanding recycling programs for remaining components to a more localized structure to decrease carbon footprint from supplier logistics. In partnership with Ford, we are also developing and testing experimental materials and manufacturing processes with smaller carbon footprints specifically for Spin components that experience the highest turnover — parts that get damaged the most and require frequent replacement.
We also plan to find new life for all of our functioning batteries and intact vehicles after they leave Spin’s service, with zero disposal in landfills. This is especially important when new models are introduced to our fleet. The sustainability of end-of-life practices for functioning vehicles has been largely neglected within the micromobility industry. The rapid evolution and intense competition of our industry has led to disposal of vehicles by some operators, where vehicle models are superseded and destroyed well before their actual end of useful life. In 2018, Spin set a strong precedent for responsible disposal when we decided to shift from bikeshare to e-scooter share, and we plan to continue these kinds of efforts in the future when needed.
Our Keys to Success
Employees Over Gig Workers
The deep accountability of our sustainability program can only be achieved through our labor model. Spin proudly uses employees, rather than gig workers, for nearly all operations. This means that a majority of deployment, pickup, rebalancing, charging, and repairs are conducted using well-maintained Spin vehicles, in Spin warehouses, and by trained employees and managers. Operators that largely rely on gig workers using personal vehicles face a near-impossible challenge in accounting for the emissions created. Our labor practices not only make it possible for us to account for emissions in our operations, but also to more seamlessly and uniformly implement new sustainable practices and policies.
Deep Transportation Expertise at Spin
Our sustainability program is designed by experienced transportation planners, transportation engineers, and policy leaders working collaboratively with our Product, Operations, Hardware, and Supply Chain teams to ensure we can implement an ambitious program. We focus on delivering a service that is not just great on its own, but looks at how it fits into the larger transportation ecosystem: street infrastructure, sustainability, socio-economic equity, and safety.
Spin’s Collaborative Relationship with Ford
Ford has long been a leader in auto manufacturing as well as pioneering research and technology projects taking place in labs across the country and world. We are leaning into Ford’s expertise in these areas by manufacturing replacement parts with greener materials and testing the durability of our vehicles with high quality tools.
We recognize that becoming globally carbon negative by 2025 is an ambitious goal. At Spin we are confident that our strong history of working with cities, pushing boundaries to rethink urban transportation, and striving to do the right thing, will drive us to success. Over the next few months, we will share progress updates on our website and social media. Stay tuned.
About Shivam: Shivam Vohra leads sustainability at Spin, building a program that quantifies and improves the company’s energy, emission, and material footprints. Prior to Spin, he worked as a product manager within micromobility, and for more than 7 years as a transportation engineer for the City of San Francisco and at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, designing streets for people.
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