EU agency report: Electric scooters, ride-hailing services not improving air quality

  • 2020-02-04
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - While the growing use of electric scooters and ride-hailing services is transforming how people move in urban centers, it does little to improve air quality, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Walking, cycling and public transport remain the best ways for improving sustainable mobility in cities, the EEA said.

This year's transport and environment report "The first and last mile -- the key to sustainable urban transport" assesses how green and sustainable first and last mile transport options like bicycles, scooters or other means of short distance travel can transform mobility systems in cities. The report also assesses how innovative urban freight and inner city delivery services can make urban freight transport more sustainable.

The report also covers electric vans, cargo bikes and public transport, and highlights that promoting walking and cycling through developing public means of transport and improving urban spaces remain the best options from the perspective of sustainability and public health.

A separate EEA briefing on the environmental and climate impacts of transport finds that emissions of greenhouse gases from transport continue to increase and the EU transport sector still relies heavily on fossil fuels, being responsible for one quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Transport is the only major European economic sector in which GHG emissions have increased. 

In 2018, average carbon dioxide emissions of new passenger cars increased for the second consecutive year. 

"Growth in emissions is mainly due to an increase in the proportion of gasoline-powered vehicles and the popularity of SUVs. The rise is further boosted by increased demand for mobility and economic growth," Taimar Ala, director of the Estonian Environment Agency, said in a press release.

In 2018, gasoline-powered passenger cars were the best-selling vehicles in the EU, constituting almost 60 percent of sales, up from 53 percent in 2017. Diesel cars made up 36 percent of new passenger car registrations

Market penetration of zero- and low-emission vehicles, including electric cars, remained slow in 2018. In order to attain the 2021 target of 95 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer, much faster deployment of cars with low emissions is needed across Europe.

Ala said that in a situation where no functional public transport or safe and convenient conditions for cycling are available, simply banning cars cannot be the solution. 

"What could persuade people to voluntarily give up cars are good alternative options," he said.

The introduction and rapid uptake of app-based vehicle sharing schemes can also have benefits, however, the report points to studies which show that their impact on the environment is not always positive. Especially e-scooter sharing schemes appear to attract users that would have otherwise walked or used public transport, Ala said, quoting the report. Similarly, studies show that ride-hailing apps like Uber or Bolt do little to reduce emissions or congestion and actually draw people away from public transport.

Increasing the proportion of walking, cycling and public transport in urban mobility is crucial for attaining long-term environmental sustainability goals, Ala said.