As COP28 kicks off and questions grow around big oil’s role in the events, we’re taking a closer look at green transportation here at Climatebase, since the sector is one of the largest contributors to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that we recently wrote about the evolution of greener flight, and its implications for stemming climate change. While lowering the carbon output of flights is an important macro-trend and a significant step toward cleaning up the transportation sector, there are some “greener” pastures closer to home that could have an even more significant impact: More climate-friendly alternatives to last-mile transportation like e-bikes, electric scooters, and other micro-mobility solutions. But are they really the answer to our climate change woes?
It’s no news that transportation is responsible for approximately one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, but where those emissions really stack up is in what’s known as the “last mile.” Last-mile transportation–typically from the distribution center to your doorstep–lends an estimated 8% to the equation.
This data is particularly relevant right now, as we enter the biggest shopping season of the year between now and the holidays, and the major carriers have already prepped for a very busy season, by implementing surcharges and extending timelines for deliveries around the holidays.
The biggest issue is “idling”: stopping and starting, heavy traffic, and short trips, all of which contribute to the problem of last-mile emissions. While there has been some effort to clean up the last mile delivery thanks to commercial electric vans, like the 100,000 Rivians that Amazon says it has in its fleet, there’s still a long way to go to get last-mile emissions under control.
While those electric vans are helping to green up the delivery process, they do also pose some drawbacks. They take a significant amount of time and energy to recharge, and tend to have a bit less range than internal combustion vehicles. Their battery packs are heavy, which can cause an increase in road damage, especially in areas that see cold weather and snow mitigation efforts. Those batteries also require a lot of rare earth minerals to make, which can have a high impact on the environmental and human rights. Plus, just like consumer EVs, even commercial EVs will face an end-of-life battery recycling issue that has yet to be completely solved.
If electric delivery vans aren’t the magic bullet, then what is? Some tout the advent of electric micro-mobility as a way to reduce transportation's impact on the climate and continue to meet our collective growing demand for all things delivery.
According to the International Energy Agency, there were more than 26 million electric vehicles on the roadway last year. These include cars, trucks, vans, SUVs and crossovers. As of 2022, there are only 1.3 million commercial electric delivery vans, trucks, and buses working to tackle that last mile problem, but many argue that electrifying vans and trucks still won’t reduce emissions. In fact, a shift to electric micro-mobility for the last mile, as TechCrunch points out, may be the next big market opportunity for delivery services–and it could help accelerate efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector further.
There are an estimated 280 million mopeds, scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheelers on the road as of last year, according to Bloomberg Energy Finance. That has cut demand for oil by nearly 1 million barrels per day.
While that’s significant, the impact could be even greater if delivery and logistics companies got in on the trend in a more robust way. FedEx, UPS and Amazon all have small-scale tests running all over the world using various forms of all-electric last-mile delivery systems, but so far they are just tests. The companies have not rolled out these solutions to wider areas yet.
In general, the impact of micro-mobility on climate change is significant and positive. These transportation tools reduce greenhouse gas emissions and congestion in large cities that tend to both generate the most carbon emissions and bear the brunt of pollution. They also reduce our reliance on oil and gas, but there are still some drawbacks.
For one, some argue that more, smaller vehicles on the roads won’t solve congestion problems, and would only increase the demand for power generation. Many cities are not yet fully equipped to support widespread micro-mobility. Many lack dedicated lanes, parking spaces, and charging stations for both consumers and commercial users.
Safety issues are also a concern, as both the public and commercial ventures get into the electric micro-mobility space and mingle with conventional traffic in already congested cities. For one, there will likely be an uptick in accidents and injuries. Case in point, micro-mobility is still so new that just last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that police departments add new codes to their crash data to identify and track scooter and other micro-mobility accidents.
Additionally, an increase in battery fires, like those we have seen in New York, are to be expected.
Furthermore, while micro-mobility solutions can significantly reduce emissions for short trips or last-mile deliveries, they may not be as effective for longer distances or in areas with harsh weather conditions. This limitation means that while e-bikes and scooters can complement public transit and other green transportation methods, they cannot fully replace them.
Like any EV, the manufacturing and disposal of electric micro-mobility vehicles, especially their batteries, pose environmental challenges. The production of lithium-ion batteries, which are essential for these vehicles, involves significant energy use and the extraction of rare minerals, often from environmentally sensitive areas. Moreover, the end-of-life management of these batteries is a growing concern, as improper disposal can lead to pollution and resource waste.
Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of electric micro-mobility are hard to ignore. A 2015 study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that if cities around the world embraced cycling, there could be an 11% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2050. While that study is older and focuses on both e-bikes as well as conventional cycling, it’s clear that electric micro-mobility vehicles offer a cost-effective and convenient option for urban commuting and last-mile delivery, potentially reducing reliance on personal cars and helping to decongest city roads.
Cities are taking notice and getting on board, too. Paris has invested heavily in expanding its bike lanes and offers subsidies for e-bike purchases. Similarly, in New York City, a successful cargo bike trial led to a 109% increase in deliveries by cargo bikes, demonstrating their efficacy in urban logistics.
As the corporate sector continues to invest in e-mobility, and an increasing number of consumers make the micro-mobility shift, climate change will only benefit. While there are still plenty of challenges, including sustainable battery production, urban infrastructure improvements, changes in public policies to encourage the adoption of green transportation options, and more, e-bikes and electric micro-mobility just might help us get to a more sustainable place.
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
“Documented is an investigative watchdog and journalism project committed to holding accountable the powerful interests that undermine our democracy. Started in 2017, Documented has conducted groundbreaking and award-winning investigations into politicians, industry trade associations, political networks, and front groups. Our work has influenced congressional hearings, national media coverage, and corporate behavior. In 2021, our work exposing the groups behind the ...”
“Why are rental homes behind on decarbonization targets? Because incentives are split: the property owner would invest in energy efficiency or renewables, but can’t capture the returns because the rental tenant generally owns the energy contract. Fram’s platform splits the energy savings between property owner and tenant, unlocking profitable deployment of energy retrofits. ...”
“The Carbonauts are on a mission to change the world by inspiring and educating millions of people in order to shift our culture to a sustainable one and help our species flourish in the beautiful green future that is just around the corner. We’re a great, diverse team and work with terrific clients. We love being a force for inspiration ...”
“We are a team of entrepreneurs, inventors, and activists who are committed to mitigating climate change. We know there are great technologies, like induction stoves and heat pumps, which can immediately make people's lives better, while also making a big difference on climate change. So we created Channing St. Copper Co. to get these technologies in more homes as quickly ...”
“Founded in 2021, Pulsora the “Enterprise Sustainability Platform”, is a well-funded Silicon Valley software startup. It is dedicated to empowering purpose-driven enterprises to manage and improve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and overall sustainability footprint with an integrated, comprehensive, flexible, and innovative technology platform built for compliance, tracking, and insight. We are well funded, have amazing customers across industries ...”
“We believe that access to reliable and affordable charging is the key to unlocking mass electrification and fighting climate change. At Presto, we are building a software platform to power magical charging experiences for fleets, mobility providers, and businesses. For our charging partners, we strive to set in motion a positive flywheel of business demand and network utilization, helping expand ...”
“EV Realty develops, deploys and owns grid-scale charging infrastructure critical to electrifying commercial fleets in the U.S. We accelerate the adoption of large EV fleets by focusing on the fundamental constraint all electrified fleets face: low-cost, reliable and expandable access to grid-scale power. Today’s electrical grid is complex, constrained and rapidly evolving. It is also the backbone source of fuel that ...”
“MaGrann develops and deploys best practices in sustainable MEP engineering, green building certification, comprehensive multifamily assessments, deep energy retrofits, and building decarbonization. We are honored to be the trusted partner of builders, developers, architects, property managers, policy advocates, project funders and program implementers...”
“At Arca, we pull carbon dioxide from the air and store it permanently as rock. To do this at scale, we partner with the minerals industry to implement our technology at mines. These are the same mines that are producing the minerals (nickel, for example) necessary for the transition to a clean energy future. Arca’s founders are leaders in the ...”
“Our mission is to harness the power of technology and collective action to decarbonize the banking sector. We empower bank customers with the tools and insights they need to influence their banks towards sustainable lending, advocating for a greener future. Through transparency, engagement, and innovation, we aim to redefine the role of banks in the fight against climate change. As a ...”
“Our mission is to decarbonise the transportation industry, and we devote our technology, time and talent to advancing the transition to sustainable low-carbon fuels. In 2010 we set a challenge to produce an alternative fuel which could compete with fossil fuels from both an environmental and economic perspective. In this time we have developed and patented breakthrough technology, which successfully achieves ...”
“Truterra is a leading sustainability solutions provider, advancing and connecting sustainability efforts throughout the food system at scale – from farmers to ag retailers to value chain collaborators including food and fiber companies. Truterra positions farmers for success by providing them tools and resources to establish a stewardship baseline, track progress on every field they farm, access conservation resources, and prepare for ecosystem services market opportunities. The Truterra ...”
“Blue Whale Materials is an American recycling company working toward a greener and more sustainable global battery supply chain. It is building a lithium-ion battery recycling facility, producing an ethically sourced stream of cobalt, nickel, manganese, and lithium in the first stage of a closed-loop solution for lithium-ion battery manufacturers. ...”
“For over 20 years, David Gardiner and Associates has worked to catalyze global decarbonization through strategic advisory services. By leveraging decades of practical experience and thought leadership, we provide our clients with tailored research and analysis, long-term strategic planning, and advanced communications through stakeholder engagement and alliance building. We continue to foster effective partnerships with nonprofits, trade associations, and corporations ...”
“Rubi is ushering in an entirely new planet-positive era for manufacturing. Our vision is a world where human prosperity is planet-positive, and manufacturing is symbiotic with Earth. Our mission is to build the world’s most sustainable supply chains for the important materials we rely on; including textiles, building materials, food, packaging, and more. Rubi decarbonizes supply chains, starting with the fashion ...”
That's it for this week! Remember, you can always view thousands of more jobs on Climatebase.org.
👋 Get discovered. Create a profile to have employers hire you.
🚀 Accelerate your climate career. Apply to join the Climatebase Fellowship.
🌱 Hiring? Post your jobs to reach over 250k monthly users users and over 100,000 newsletter readers.
❤️️ Share a link to this week's edition.
We sat down with Dimitry Gershenson, the co-founder and CEO of Enduring Planet. Dimitry and his co-founders Erin and Josh are no strangers to climate finance, and they’re leveraging their expertise to help climate tech startups and SMBs get the funding they need to save the planet.
A world where crops risk disappearing offers an opportunity for climate tech.
Brood X is coming.
In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we look at evolving cooling solutions to combat record heat.
In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we examine climate change and the rise of disease, viruses, and antibiotic resistance.