Last month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Sixth Assessment Report, which sounded a dire warning: changes to the climate are not only well underway, but are also widespread, rapid, and intensifying.
The devastating impacts of climate change can already be seen globally today, as multiple regions of the world have been hard hit by damaging floods and wildfires and record heat this summer meanwhile an active hurricane season continues. Without urgent actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming, the world will face catastrophic and irreversible damage that will disrupt the lives of people and adversely impact communities.
This week, government, corporate and community leaders from around the world are gathering in person and virtually for the annual UN General Assembly and Climate Week in New York City to reinforce the role we all play in protecting our planet. We’re also celebrating World Car Free Day, underscoring one of the major steps we can all take to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions: drive less.
Since Spin’s founding, we have been steadfast in our commitment to being a part of the climate solution—by providing sustainable modes of transportation that not only meet the mobility needs of riders but also help reduce emissions and congestion in cities and on campuses. Today, Spin jointly released a report with Marsh, a global leader in risk management, that looks at how the micromobility sector can further drive sustainability in cities and mitigate the risks from climate change through a combination of improved operational sustainability, enhanced product sustainability, and initiatives that enable and encourage mode shift away from cars for short trips.
Assessing Our Footprint: Manufacturing to End of Life
The report highlights the results of Spin’s recent life cycle assessment (LCA) of our latest generation of e-scooters, which have swappable batteries and a longer lifespan of up to five years. LCA is a methodology that helps companies assess the environmental impacts associated with the different stages of the life cycle of their products. Spin’s LCA looked at all life cycle stages from cradle-to-grave, meaning, from raw material extraction at the beginning of the life cycle to manufacturing, transport, use, and ultimately, disposal at the end-of-life.
Conducted in partnership with researchers at the Materials Research Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the LCA confirmed that, at 38 grams CO2 equivalent (g CO2e) of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometer (pkm), Spin’s e-scooters offer a sustainable mode of transportation, comparable with many forms of public transit—such as buses, trains—on a pkm basis (based on Spin’s base case scenario for San Francisco, where we are using 100 percent renewable electricity and will soon have a 50 percent EV operations fleet).
In comparison, an average car in the U.S. that only carries one passenger would emit 251g CO2e per pkm, over 6 times as much, based on data from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Once Spin completes our transition to a fully electric operations vehicles fleet, emissions are expected to fall further to 25g CO2e per pkm.
These results show that the micromobility sector has come a long way since the early days, when research from North Carolina State University and other institutions showed that e-scooters were not as sustainable as they should have been due to short vehicle lifespans and operations that relied on gas-guzzling vans.
Over the past year, since Spin released our ambitious roadmap to become carbon negative by 2025, removing more emissions from the transit ecosystem than we create in providing our service, we have taken a number of actions to improve the sustainability of our operations and of the e-scooters and e-bikes that we use in our shared micromobility service.
Our LCA reflects the sustainability gains that we have made through these improvements to our operations:
These steps have all drastically brought down the emissions and environmental impacts of using Spin’s scooters and have made Spin a more sustainable company. These efforts, and our purchases of carbon offsets to neutralize emissions we were unable to avoid, have enabled Spin to become a carbon neutral company, as we announced last month.
From Private Car-dependency to a Sustainable, Multi-Modal Journey: Mode Shift and the 15-minute City
Providing a sustainable product and service alone is not sufficient to create the level of emissions reduction and positive change that we need to combat climate change. We must simultaneously encourage greater adoption of micromobility and other alternative modes like walking, cycling, and public transit, and enabling mode shift away from cars.
Hence, the report also details the complementary activities that we believe must take place to both enable and encourage mode shift: 1) a focus on safety, including the infrastructure needed to promote safety, 2) equity, inclusion, and access to micromobility services, and 3) supportive policies and regulations that allow micromobility to flourish.
Spin has been tackling these issues through a number of initiatives, all with the goal of creating a world full of 15-minute cities, where people are able to travel between their homes and essential services and destinations within 15 minutes using active and sustainable mobility modes like walking, taking public transit, riding a scooter, or a bike.
Spin is enhancing safety through improving vehicle design, developing in-app safety features that educate riders, reinforce safety messaging, and incentivize safe riding behaviors, and partnerships with companies like Drover and Tortoise to incorporate technologies that enable safer riding.
We’re also working with cities and organizations to make the case for more people-oriented street design and safer infrastructure—like protected lanes and parklets—for micromobility and pedestrian use.
We also have programs and partnerships that focus on providing micromobility services and transit access to neighborhoods currently underserved by transportation.
We deploy our e-scooters and e-bikes in equity zones to expand access to transit solutions and through Spin Access, provide discounted fares to those who qualify so they can access micromobility services regardless of their means.
We also work with cities and community organizations to engage and educate prospective riders to help us tackle the issue of mobility equity.
Lastly, our policy team engages with city agencies, policymakers, and regulators to encourage the development of supportive legislation and micromobility programs that enable micromobility companies to provide a safe, sustainable, and reliable service that meet the needs of their residents.
As the UN IPCC report makes clear, we have no time to waste if we want to build a more sustainable future.
Greening our cities and their transportation systems is key to combating climate change. Enabling mode shift away from cars toward sustainable alternatives will require actions on numerous fronts.
Spin is committed to doing our part and continuing to enhance our sustainability as a company so that we can provide sustainable alternatives to cars for short trips. We will also continue to collaborate with cities, our community partners, our riders, and other stakeholders to push on all of these fronts so that we can realize our vision of a world of sustainable and livable 15-minute cities.
Find out more about our sustainability initiatives at www.spin.app/sustainability.
Hui leads Sustainability at Spin and spearheads cross-functional efforts to implement Spin’s Carbon Negative by 2025 Strategy. Previously, she led ESG strategy and reporting and climate risk management at Citi. She began her career in consulting and investment banking, and also has experience managing global health programs in the non-profit sector.