Sustainability and Accountability

  • Skip will begin voluntarily publishing regular reports, starting today, that detail spare parts consumption across our new S3 fleet. This includes recycling and landfill disposal of all parts, including lithium batteries.
  • This is the first step towards a transparent life cycle analysis (LCA) to help policy makers understand the true carbon impact of S3 and other light electric vehicles.
  • Today’s report shows a 5x reduction in S3 replacement and disposal of parts compared to Skip’s previous fleet of Ninebot ES4 scooters, measured in parts per 1M trips. This is based on the first two months and 20,000 trips of limited S3 pilot testing.
  • Design changes that are now being tested improve this to 20x. The results will be published in April and on an ongoing quarterly basis.

Today for the first time, Skip is publishing data regarding spare parts replacement and disposal needed to operate our shared electric scooter fleet. In addition, regular quarterly reports will begin in April. This is the first step in a transparent life cycle analysis (LCA) to measure and reduce carbon footprint. This transparency will allow policy makers, regulators, and all stakeholders to understand the environmental benefit that shared scooters can bring to our cities.

Micromobility can clearly reduce the carbon footprint of urban transportation by replacing car trips and improving access to public transit. While sustainability is discussed frequently by operators of shared fleets, publicly reported data is lacking across manufacturing, logistics, operations, battery disposal, and spare parts consumption. Resulting studies vary widely, with one by Seattle regulators concluding 20,000 scooters “would not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment” while another by NC State University “exclude[d] routine maintenance such as replacing tires or parts” and still concluded they aren’t environmentally sustainable.

In late 2018, we purchased several thousand Ninebot ES4 scooters that were readily available and inexpensive. Like many operators of shared scooter fleets, we retrofitted these with remote unlock capability and GPS. However, these vehicles were designed for personal ownership, indoor storage, and occasional use, not for the rigors of shared outdoor fleets. To ensure the fleet was safe to ride every day, we hired and trained an incredible staff to repair these vehicles and began measuring our work.

In 2019, we deployed a test fleet of Segway-Ninebot ES4s to help us design S3. The ES4 model has been used by many in the shared scooter industry. In Washington DC, an average of 627 scooters completed ~2,000 daily trips and required replacement of 51 parts per day to pass our safety checks.

The environmental impact of repairing shared scooter fleets is in desperate need of improvement. From September through November 2019, we averaged 627 Ninebot ES4s deployed in Washington DC, and each scooter was used 3.1 times for a total average of 1,962 trips a day. To keep these scooters running safely our operations team performed regular quality checks and replaced an average of 51 parts every day.

This is the equivalent of 26,000 parts replaced per 1M trips.

Spare parts used included regular service parts like tires, parts that were easily damaged like plastic switches or placards, and safety upgrades like steel battery cages. The rate of part replacement hasn’t changed substantially as the fleet aged, since older scooters get newer parts. These are made of aluminum, plastic, rubber, and other materials. We do our best to recycle where possible, but this footprint is still enormously wasteful and can be improved significantly.

This photo shows the parts replaced in a typical week when serving ~14,000 weekly trips. It includes metal and plastic parts that are easy to recycle, lithium batteries that can require hazardous material disposal, and other parts such as electronics. We averaged the equivalent of 26,000 parts per 1M trips.

S3 is Skip’s first custom scooter, and it’s designed to last longer and use modular parts with specified service lifetimes and intervals. We started designing S3 in 2018 and began public testing in Washington DC in November 2019. A key goal of this test was to conduct regular inspections to identify where parts were failing earlier than planned and make adjustments to our design based on real world testing. We served approximately 20,000 trips over a two month winter-time operational test.

During this test, we replaced 88 parts, or a 5x improvement to 4,800 parts per 1M trips.

Importantly, none of these 88 parts had reached their service lifetimes. The majority of part failures were related to the plastic dashboard, headlight assembly, and kickstand. The cause was usually either intentional damage such as vandalism or unintentional damage such as after a tip-over. Design changes already in progress are strengthening of the dashboard design, stronger metal stops in the steering limiter, and a more robust kickstand cam profile.

We replaced 88 parts such as these in the first 2 months of S3 testing serving 20,000 trips. This is 4,800 parts per 1M trips, or a 5x improvement from the prior fleet.

While it’s still too early to extrapolate this data, we’ve seen a significant improvement in both durability of parts and resistance to both intentional vandalism and accidental wear and tear. With design changes as well as upcoming service parts like tires, we are targeting a part replacement rate of 1,500 per 1M trips, or a 20x improvement compared to the prior fleet.

It’s clear that improving the lifetime of scooters alone isn’t the answer to sustainability. A fleet must account for factors like parts consumption and repair logistics to capture a true LCA, let alone the total cost of ownership (TCO). A scooter that lasts a year but requires complete part replacement every 3 months may be even worse than a scooter that only lasts 3 months. Our goal with S3 is to make our vehicles and the component parts be durable, safe, and predictable.

S3 is the first electric fleet scooter designed with regular service intervals, specified part lifetimes, and a proprietary design that we improve over time.

We’re looking forward to sharing more as we continue to vehicle validation testing and carefully expand our S3 fleet in 2020. As with tip-over detection, our aim is to bring a new level of data reporting, transparency, and safety to micromobility. If you are interested in life cycle analysis, environmental policy, design for reliability, or would like to learn about joining our team, we’d love to hear from you.

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