Even a good two years after their introduction, e-scooters are of a different opinion. Some find it practical, others find it in the way. Vandalism is a growing problem.
In broad daylight, a young man in a hoodie is standing on a bridge. The river below. He holds a green and white e-scooter in both hands. His friend is holding the cell phone. Laughter, a quick look at the camera, and the electric scooter fly over the bridge railing and with a loud splash into the river.
Vandalism and accidents damage the reputation
In this way, several hundred e-scooters were probably sunk in the Rhine. They have been there for several months. Your recovery is scheduled for the beginning of September. Such rescue operations should be carried out regularly in the future. The city and lender have agreed on this. The lenders would bear the costs of the rescue themselves. How high they will turn out is not yet clear.Such vandalism and the increasing number of accidents led Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker to issue an ultimatum: either the e-scooter rental companies commit to a voluntary night driving ban, or they are threatened with banishment from Germany’s fourth-largest city. The distributors responded with rejection. Through the “Platform Shared Mobility” association, they spoke out clearly against a night driving ban. The measure is a quick shot and would punish the vast majority of inconspicuous users.
Business is still going well for both Tier and the scooter rental company Lime. Lime is “very satisfied” with the utilization of the scooter, and Tier has already invested according to its own information in order to expand the range in the next year. Only last year the company had secured another $ 250 million financings round.”For most e-scooter rental companies, investors are currently the only way to finance their growth,” says Friedemann Brockmeyer. He worked on e-scooters as early as 2019 in a data project for the consulting company Civity. At that time the forecast was: “The e-scooters are a hype.” And further: “Overall, the media presence, as well as the attention in the ministries and municipalities, seem a bit excessive.”
Just a niche in traffic
The traffic expert Tobias Kuhnimhof from RWTH Aachen University sees it similarly. For him, the scooters occupy a niche in city traffic. The e-scooters in combination with public transport should actually offer an alternative to the numerous cars in cities. “That has not yet been redeemed,” says Kuhnimhof. Of the kilometers driven in Germany, less than one percent would be covered with a shared vehicle – including bike and car sharing. The perceived omnipresence in the inner cities is deceptive. “This leads to a certain overestimation of this phenomenon. It has actually not arrived in the form of mobility demand,” says Kuhnimhof.One of the reasons from his point of view: too high costs. While a kilometer on a scooter costs an average of one to 1.50 euros, public transport would cost ten to twelve cents. “Given these pricing conditions, it seems to be hard to imagine that someone would cover a longer distance by scooter to the train station.” According to Kuhnimhof, the scooters are mainly used for “adventure trips”.
Transport to the bus stop?
If you leave the car behind and take the scooter to work, you have to pay more. At the same time, however, according to the Federal Environment Agency, this is actually the more environmentally friendly solution. Using the scooter instead of walking is not. The providers put a lot of work into their environmentally friendly external image. Animals, in particular, advertise climate neutrality. According to the rental companies, the average lifespan of an animal scooter is 36 months, Lime states it is 24 months. The decommissioned scooters would be dismantled, the still usable parts used for repairs and the rest recycled. Emissions that could not be reduced in the course of production would be offset by compensation payments. Nevertheless, according to the Federal Environment Agency, it is currently not possible to make such a production process completely climate-neutral. From the authority’s point of view, the much greater potential of e-scooters would be to enable car-free transport to the front door. Therefore, it makes sense to make them available at the terminal stops of the bus or S-Bahn. However, the scooters are currently in the hotspots of the city centers. According to traffic expert Kuhnimhof, restrictions such as a night driving ban or a parking ban in certain areas could make it more difficult for scooter distributors to establish themselves permanently.