Earth Day 2022: Continuing the Push Toward Greener Transportation

An illustration showing people riding a scooter, a bike, and using a wheelchair. There is also a bus and various modes of environmentally-friendly energy generation.

This Earth Day, we are reminded that time is running out to limit global warming and avoid the most serious impacts from earth’s rising temperatures. Again and again, we hear the scientific community tell us that the status quo is not sustainable.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that without immediate action to limit global warming, many of climate change’s impacts will be irreversible. Though it will be difficult, it is still possible to take action that can mitigate the worst possible scenarios, thanks to existing technologies and strategies that can help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions to more sustainable levels by 2050.

Given that approximately 17 percent of our global carbon footprint comes from personal transportation, Spin is committed to being part of the solution by helping create 15-minute cities that get people out of cars more often and on to more sustainable modes of transportation.

As the IPCC notes: “Cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions. These can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities), [and] electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources…” 

While we work toward cities where people can choose more sustainable transportation options, we have also committed to making our own operations as sustainable as possible by working towards becoming carbon negative–that is, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we produce–by 2025.

This year, through purchasing renewable electricity, upgrades to our scooters, and improved efficiency in our operations, we’ve reduced Spin’s per-mile carbon footprint by 34 percent, an accomplishment we will continue to build on as we head to our 2025 goal.

Measuring our emissions and getting to carbon neutral

In order to achieve our ambitious carbon negative by 2025 goal we need to continually track and accurately measure how much carbon (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs) we emit each year. To that end, we just finished our 2021 carbon accounting, which builds on our work from last year and is part of our continued commitment to The Climate Pledge.

We use data from our carbon accounting to help us identify our greatest opportunities for improvement and to ensure we purchase enough high-quality carbon offsets and renewable electricity to achieve carbon neutrality for our entire business.

We are proud to be a carbon neutral company and to have our carbon neutrality verified by an independent third party using the PAS 2060 carbon neutral specification. This year, we purchased our offsets from the Hebei Chengde Weichang Yudaokou Ruyihe Wind Power Project. This project supports the development of renewable energy in China, where the majority of our e-scooters and e-bikes are manufactured, and where a significant portion of our emissions originate from.

Using the GHG Protocol, the global standard for measuring and managing GHG emissions, we calculated our 2021 Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions:

  • Scope 1 covers direct emissions from the gas used to heat our offices and warehouses, and the fuel used in our Operations vans for deploying and maintaining our micromobility fleets. 
  • Scope 2 covers the indirect emissions from the generation of electricity that Spin purchases to power our offices and warehouses as well as to charge our e-scooters and e-bikes. 
  • Scope 3 covers the indirect emissions that come from the rest of our business activities such as manufacturing, transportation, and end-of-life processing of our e-scooters and e-bikes, to our purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, and remote work.

A closer look at the numbers

Like many companies, our absolute emissions in 2021 increased compared to 2020. At the same time, we have reduced the carbon intensity of Spin’s operations when measured on a per-mile basis.

Put simply, although we saw the number of miles traveled on our e-scooters and e-bikes increase by 138 percent from 2020 to 2021 (from about 7.4 million miles in 2020 to about 17.6 million miles in 2021), our emissions increased by only 57 percent.

The increase in ridership in 2021 compared to 2020 was a result of a considerable decline in ridership at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many cities imposed lockdowns, combined with our rapid expansion into new markets in North America and Europe throughout 2021.

In order to compare our relative performance from year-to-year, we look at the carbon intensity of providing our micromobility service on a per-mile basis (i.e., kg CO2e/mile).

In 2021, our carbon intensity decreased by 34 percent, from 2.51 to 1.66 kg CO2e/mile. It’s important to note that this carbon intensity metric encompasses all of our Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for Spin’s entire business, including the emissions associated with our headquarters, business travel, employee commuting, and other business activities.

Therefore, it is not representative of the life cycle carbon emissions of our e-scooters. The life cycle emissions include the GHGs from raw material extraction at the beginning of each vehicle’s life cycle to manufacturing, transport, use, and ultimately, disposal at the end of life (for more information see our previous blog post about e-scooter life cycle emissions here).

Although our 2021 absolute emissions increased, a 34 percent reduction in carbon emissions per-mile shows that our efforts to lower our impact were successful even with expansion and considerable growth last year.

One of our key initiatives is to transition all of our Operations vans to electric vehicles. In October, when we launched our 100 percent electric vans in Miami, we became the first micromobility company in North America to operate an all-electric Operations fleet in a single city.

We have also begun using e-cargo bikes to redistribute and deploy our microbombility vehicles in several markets, which helps reduce the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of our Operations vans. 

Additionally, we are transitioning our e-scooter fleet to swappable batteries, eliminating the need to transport entire scooters back to our warehouses for recharging and improving our operational efficiency.

Working on the road ahead

We are proud of our progress, but we know there is work to be done on the road ahead. In 2022, we plan to expand our efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change by continuing our transition toward 100 percent electric Operations vehicles, accelerating our transition to swappable battery technology, and looking for ways to extend the lifespan of our micromobility vehicles and incorporate recycled materials into their components. To support the shift towards a circular economy, we are piloting a second-life program for our used batteries where they will be repurposed for other electric transportation applications.

With personal mobility accounting for approximately 17 percent of the global carbon footprint, there is ample opportunity for micromobility to play a major role in reducing emissions. But for micromobility to reach its full potential as a sustainable mode of transportation that contributes to decarbonization and improves people’s quality of life, we need to encourage increased mode shift away from cars for short trips. Safety, infrastructure, equitable access, and supportive policies are all essential ingredients in achieving this goal. We currently have initiatives in all of these areas and the post-ride surveys in our app help us track our progress.

In order to achieve our 2025 carbon negative goal and give people the freedom to move in a sustainable way, we will continue to offer a reliable, safe, and accessible micromobility service to reduce car use on city streets and connect riders to public transit. Climate change is a global problem, so it’s going to take all of us to tackle it and ensure a sustainable future for everyone.

Find out more about our sustainability initiatives at Spin’s 2021 PAS 2060 report is available here.

Mike Fortier leads Spin’s sustainability program and spearheads cross-functional efforts to implement Spin’s carbon negative by 2025 strategy. Previously he worked as an environmental program manager at Apple and a sustainability consultant at Arup.

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