You don't need to be a mathematician or a fortune-teller to figure out that most modern scooters are more eco-friendly than their four-wheeled kin. But can they really save the planet? A new infographic circulating across the web claims they can. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell the whole story.
The graphic compares operating costs, carbon footprints, and gasoline expenses for an average SUV, an average compact car, and a scooter (specifically, a Vespa). If you just look at the numbers, the winner seems pretty obvious: with annual expenses running less than $2,000, a fuel economy of 75 mpg, and average fill-ups costing under $9, the scooter comes out well ahead. There are also larger factors to consider, like the steep drop in gas Americans would consume if more folks switched to scooter transit.
It's hard to argue with stats like those, but we'll try.
Our first counter-point would be that the graphic was compiled by Vespa itself, not an objective third party surveying a wide range of scooters. That isn't to say that the data is intrinsically wrong, but in a case like this, we're always concerned about drawing clear lines between advertising puffery and indisputable facts. Caveat emptor.
Second, scooters face many of the same obstacles that EVs do in the marketplace, meaning that widespread adoption isn't likely. Sure, they're bright and shiny and fun, but just as EVs generate anxiety about range, scooters seem impractical for many consumers, given their limited passenger and cargo capabilities. Like EVs, they're best for folks in urban areas -- specifically, single folks and couples whose lifestyles fit the scooter model.
Third -- and perhaps most importantly -- gas-powered scooters are not zero-emissions vehicles. They may not pump out pollutants at the same rate as SUVs, but many of the two-stroke engines found on older models are pretty dirty.
So, can scooters save the planet? Maybe.
We're not entirely sold on Vespa -- the company gets high marks for style, but they're often proprietary with maintenance and such. We're more intrigued by the electric scooters from Current Motors, which make emissions a non-issue. (FYI, Bob Lutz is a fan of theirs, too.) But whether you're a gas junkie or an EV enthusiast, if you're looking for a new, fuel-efficient way to get around and you don't have kids to schlep, you could probably do worse than moving to two wheels.