Case study: Reducing congestion and emissions with electric scooters

February 21, 2022

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Helping you get around town for less is one thing, but ensuring you do that sustainably and conveniently — that’s something else entirely. We’re confident that using technology to create an efficient network of shared cars, scooters, bicycles, and public transport will help build a future with less traffic, more living space, and less pollution.

Bolt has a unique customer base, combining ride-hailing and e-scooters in the same app. This means we understand how people make their transportation choices and how we can help them find greener options. 

Being in this unique position, we partnered up with the Institute of Transport Economics, TØI to find out how and if the Bolt app can be used to positively influence urban mobility habits. 

Modal shift: Nudging people towards more sustainable mobility options

Inspiring people to use light, shared vehicles, such as electric scooters, is a big part of our mission. That’s because they help reduce congestion, noise, and air pollution and turn cities into better living spaces for everyone.

The practical side of our pilot programme was straightforward. Bolt users who requested a ride-hailing trip shorter than 3 kilometres were encouraged to use a scooter instead. The recommendation to choose a more sustainable option was given only when there was an available scooter within a 5-minute walking distance (300 metres or less).

After gathering the data, it was sent to the team at TØI for methodological research.

The experiment took place in 10 European cities during a 4-6 week period: Stockholm, Oslo, Gothenburg, Lisbon, Krakow, Madrid, Bordeaux, Brno, Ostrava, and Valletta.

So, how did it go? Key results of the experiment

After receiving the recommendation to use a scooter, three main elements influenced a user’s decision:

  • The distance to the destination — the shorter the distance, the higher the chance of switching to a scooter;
  • The waiting time between the ride request and arrival — the longer the wait, the higher the chance of opting for a scooter ride;
  • The scooter’s location — the closer a scooter was to the user, the higher the chance that the nudge to rent one was successful.

Previous research on substitution patterns for rented e-scooters in Europe found that only 5–10% of car trips were replaced by scooter trips. Our experiment showed that, if encouraged, on average, 40-60% of Bolt app users would choose a scooter over a shared ride — especially for shorter distances. 

During our experiment, 3,800 additional scooter trips were taken in Oslo compared to our average numbers. In Lisbon, the scooter trip count increased by 1,500. 

This shows that when people see additional scooter information in the app, they’re more likely to alter their behaviour in the long term.

In other words, once people discovered the simplicity and convenience of using a scooter, they were more likely to opt for one instead of a car in the future.

To better understand user behaviour and increase the share of eco-friendly transportation, we’ll continue our cooperation with the Institute of Transport Economics. More specific plans will be announced later this year.

Climate positive scooter operations

Encouraging people to move towards more sustainable ways of moving around is only one side of the coin. We’re aiming to make the other side — our service operations — as green as possible too.

Our mission advocates for better cities for everyone, by offering more efficient and environmentally friendly mobility alternatives to reduce individual dependence on personal cars, and improve quality of life: reducing traffic, decreasing emissions and noise pollution, minimising accidents, relieving public space, and making transportation more accessible and affordable. 

We want to encourage people to use the adequate shared mobility solution for their specific needs. And light, shared vehicles, such as scooters, are part of the solution needed to meet the Net-Zero targets that most European cities are pledging.

Natalia Gutiérrez, Head of Sustainability at Bolt

We’re committed to designing and sustaining the most efficient scooter operations system on the market. To realise this, we:

  • Operate a sustainable development chain for our custom-built recyclable scooters, which reduces waste;
  • Use renewable energy in our warehouses where possible;
  • Use state of the art operational software that minimises the travel distance to recharge scooters and helps us optimise routes for necessary trips;
  • Prioritise renting warehouses closer to city centres, reducing the distance to scooter deployment and pick-up points;
  • Use energy-efficient vehicles (electric or zero-emission vehicles where possible) to distribute and collect our scooters and e-bikes. 

Considering all stages of our electric scooter lifecycle, we are climate positive in our scooter operations. We aim to go beyond achieving carbon neutrality by removing additional CO2 from the atmosphere — providing greater benefit to our environment.

Helping European cities lead the transition to net-zero emissions by 2030

Our research with the Institute of Transport Economics is aligned to the approach of the new European Urban Mobility Framework, released in December 2021. The framework considers new mobility services part of a multimodal, integrated approach to sustainable urban mobility, reinforcing public transport and substituting car use. 

By aiming to build a modal shift program, we’re contributing to sustainable and integrated urban mobility and playing our part in helping European cities lead the transition to net-zero emissions by 2030.

Additionally, in the context of the new European Urban Mobility Framework, there’s the need to approach environmental efficient alternatives to contribute to EU Green House Gas reduction targets

With 68% of the world’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2050 (83.7% – 369.9 million – in Europe and 43% – 1 billion – in Africa), Bolt commits to supporting cities in facing these three challenges:

  • Climate change: We support cities by providing electric, shared and multimodal mobility alternatives to reduce the environmental impact of mobility, and help them meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13: Climate Action.
  • Ensure equal opportunities: We offer affordable and safe transportation for everyone while creating income opportunities. Mobility is a vector of change — giving someone the possibility to move around the city helps support a stronger economy and a higher standard of living. We commit to providing access to safe and affordable transportation for everyone by increasing our presence in urban areas with low mobility access.
  • Urban resilience: In collaboration with cities, we develop solutions to tackle mobility issues. We want to help cities and their citizens face challenges by sharing knowledge and real-time relevant mobility data.

Join our green initiative!

Our plans are ambitious, but we won’t settle for less. We’re proud to be leading the shift towards a greener and more holistic urban environment, one ride at a time.

If you want to join our journey and contribute to a greener world, simply download the Bolt app and get going!

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