by Rebecca Carter
Categories: Transport.

jimjen.jpgJim Carrey told Access Hollywood this week that he and Jenny McCarthy aren’t headed down the aisle anytime soon. Or ever, really, saying: “No, we’re never getting married, but we’re never getting divorced, which is fantastic.” But that doesn’t stop them from making out in public. Actually, it probably encourages it.

The couple was seen hanging out here in Miami at Prime 112 this weekend, apparently very googly-eyed. When they left the restaurant they found that their scooter had been damaged…and no one left a note.

Incidentally, scooters are the preferred mode of transportation on Miami Beach, with rental places on each block. They don’t run cheap: $20/hour, $80/day…but they are much cooler looking and easier to park.

Scooters are super fuel-efficient, but unfortunately they are not necessarily good for the environment. It really defies logic, but many scooters have much higher emissions than SUVs. The two-stroke engines are worse than the four-stroke, but really the ideal solution is to use one of the new biodiesel, solar, or electric scooters that are becoming available.

How did this happen? The EPA has emissions standards that get significantly less strict for vehicles under 50cc – aka mopeds. Scooters are basically outside the law, and therefore the manufacturers really just don’t care.

So, just a word to the wise for Jim, Jenny and the rest of us: don’t assume smaller means greener!

About Rebecca Carter

Rebecca Carter is the Co-Founder of Ecorazzi. Rebecca was recently featured in the book Hot, Rich, and Green. She is one of 70 eco-achievers featured in Glamour magazine in April 2009, named Best of Green 2010 by Miami Magazine and Best Environmentalist by Miami New Times Best of 2008. She's raising a couple of little boys in Miami and speaks English & Spanish. Find out more at Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @rebeccacarter

View all posts by Rebecca Carter →
  • Reverend

    Please research your facts:

  • rebecca

    Looks like I struck a nerve on this one. To tell you the truth, it’s getting a little sciency in here and a bit out of my league. Anyone else want to chime in on the emissions of scooters?

  • michael

    Interesting response from Rod Penney over on Autoblog Green:

    “The comparison of the Aprilia Mojito scooter to other vehicles is for CO2. Of course the vehicle that uses the least fuel will win there. The HC emmisions of the scooter would exceed those of the larger vehicles on a per mile basis. The scooter mentioned at 168 ppm (vs 10 for the SUV) is unlikely to get 16.8 times the mileage of the SUV. And the percentages of CO2 listed by the Willamette Week should actually be CO (carbon monoxide). HC and CO are pollutants of interest to EPA and their conclusions are valid for those gases. CO2, while a concern, is the intended output of combustion. Reducing energy consumption is the only way to cut CO2. Accepting higher pollution and reduced safety is not the best way to get there.”

  • jridg

    The reality here is that when you look at ACTUAL amounts of pollutants generated per mile or kilometer. Think of it this way – if you are alone and want to drive 20 miles – your new four-stroke scooter that gets 65-100 miles per gallon will put out something on the order of 1500 grams of CO2 – your Toyota Prius (which we can all agree is fuel and environmentally ‘friendly’) will put out something on the order of 2000 grams. It just gets worse from there as the Prius is Significantly cleaner than just about anything else out there. So, let’s figure this out – use less oil – put out less actual mass of pollutants – therefore better for the environment. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

    Yes, there are better alternatives and eventually we will get there – but not soon enough – if you really care and want to provide less impact overall – a scooter is a fine idea.

  • jess

    Not only is this article extremely poorly researched, but the cited source for scooters having higher pollutant rates is itself riddled with errors and is factually and provably false.

    Modern four-stroke scooters (largely the only ones that are still for sale in the US) use less gas than any car, put out less pollutants per mile, reduce congestion, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. What’s not green about that?

    Shaming people into driving SUVs instead of scooters is irresponsible and misguided at best and environmentally reckless at worst.

  • rebecca

    Scooter-lovers: please keep the comments coming. It’s interesting to learn the facts you are presenting. I do want to make a point, though, that I am not (as Jess implies)trying to shame people into driving SUVs. Anyone that reads this site regularly knows that I am anti-SUV. I was simply using it as a point of comparison that as I understood it, the emissions were worse in a scooter. It seems that the source I quoted is decidely flawed by most.

    Please keep the conversation going. I’d like to get all sides on this one.

  • W. J. Laudeman

    I briefly reviewed the many comments on your article and the referenced report(s) — and found two things glaringly absent: The initial environment impact of building the vehicle, and the terminal impact of it’s eventual disposal; both were ignored.

    These factors should be painfully apparent to anyone passing an automobile wrecking yard . . the typical automobile is tens of times more massive and contains equally larger amounts of toxic materials and their byproducts, compared to any scooter.

    I drive daily one of the “larger” scooters – a Honda Helix. It weighs about 350 pounds, and, I would guess, will produce only a small fraction of the pollutants that (say) a Mercury Sable will create when each is finally scrapped.

    Incidentally, although I get only about 60 miles per gallon of fuel, and an “oil change” demands less than one quart of oil; my scooter’s electrical system employs a battery that appears to be about 1/4 the mass of a typical automotive battery, and it’s cooling system demands one and a half quarts of coolant, as opposed to several gallons of this highly polluting mixture in a passenger car. The two small tires on my scooter demand perhaps a tenth of the environmental burden than the automobile tires, and the brake dust from my Helix is far, far less than that produced by even the lightest auto.

    If you think that these figures are of lesser importance than exhaust emissions, think again; every auto out there – including those lovely “green” hybrids with their enormous toxic battery banks – carries its natal burden of pollution right up to the moment of paying that “terminal” pollution bill at the end of its life. Driving fewer miles will not avoid those environmental burdens, merely put them off until a little later. In the meantime, “consumables” for the automobile create an environmental nightmare, compared to the relatively simple needs of my scooter.

    Everything taken into account, scooters are a tiny blip on the pollution landscape, compared to the mountain of poisons that represents each car and truck.

  • Andy

    Allow me to settle ALL these arguments, debates, etc…
    Get a 100% electric machine ok ?
    Here you can get an E-bike, or E-scooter ( E-micro car coming soon ) No you can’t drive cross country,
    so don’t go there. 80% of travel is less than 30 miles per day.( weather permitting ) class dismissed

  • David R.

    This article is full of BS, It is proven that scooters are much less poluting than a Car, your misguided information only shows that you are out for media value, I hope to one day see a retraction to your irresponsable attempt at professional journalism. And Yes, I am a Vespa Dealer!!
    I have a right to speak out too. Especially to your trashy article.

  • James

    “And Yes, I am a Vespa Dealer!”

    Funniest. Quote. Yet.

    I’m going to take issue with the tone of some of these comments. While the information in the article may be misguided — and we all know that two-stroke scooters are not the greatest — I think the problem is that people automatically assume that scooters are super-green; when in fact they carry their own issues. Sure, they’re much better for the environment than an SUV, but I’ve been to the Dominican Republic — where scooters outnumber cars greatly — and that place has worse air quality than anything back home. Not to mention the noise that scooters emit. I’ll take a car driving by over a scooter any day.

    What’s the solution: Electric. I’m not saying paying $9K for a Vectrix is feasible at this moment, but eventually such options will kill the argument entirely; especially if your power comes from solar or wind. Till then, continue riding your 4-stroke scooters. If not green, your commuting options are definitely more efficient.

    And remember, these discussions should be to educate and not ridicule someone. Her article wasn’t filled with obscenities or nasty remarks. Your passionate views to correct her errors make some of you look like asses.

  • michael

    From the forums by member Bryce-O-Rama:

    “ou might think it’s over the top, but it’s actually true. Now, if motorcycles had all the same emissions requirements that cars did, they would obviously be much less polluting than a comparable car. However, they are held to a lower standard, and manufacturers don’t tend to exceed the standards by much, if at all. It costs more money to do it, which then increases retail prices significantly. Scooters are already have a tough enough price to value ratio for most consumers to swallow. As evidenced by how often MV members hear “I could buy a real bike for that much!”

    Riding a scooter isn’t environmentally friendly in terms of direct vehicle emissions. The sad truth is that if Americans switched over to scooters tomorrow as our primary form of transportation, our air would get much dirtier. If you want to look at the system as a whole, it takes far less energy to manufacture and transport a scooter. So you’re ahead there. You’re also using less fuel, which means less of the stuff being pumped from the ground, refined, and transported on your behalf. You’re also doing your part to ease traffic congestion, which does help reduce local air pollution. So don’t be disheartened or think me too much of a buzzkill. Your scooter is eco-friendly in some ways, if not in a very direct sort of way.

    If it makes you feel better, riding an electric scooter or driving an electric car shouldn’t be a salve for anyone’s conscience. Most electricity in the US is not from clean sources. By the time all is said and done, driving an electric car can be more polluting than driving a petro-fueled one. Electric vehicles at this point simply cause emissions relocation, but almost never cause reduction.”

  • William Hazen

    It’s all relative…buying a scooter over an SUV is a choice and in my mind if you have the financial wherewithal to choose between the two and pick an SUV Well…Out here in Malibu we are having rallies over an attempt to put an offshore Natural Gas facility near our coast. I would say large SUV’s outnumber scooter’s by about a hundred to one at these rallies. Saying you are for the environment is one thing… Acting like you are by making good choices about your tranportation is another, and in the end I know I sleep better at night.

  • jess

    A couple of points:

    - The air is dirtier in the Dominican Republic because their scooters are old 2-stroke designs. Noisy, yes. The vast majority of scooters sold in the US today are four stroke. These are fuel efficient vehicles and very, very quiet. Riding my scooter on the freeway sounds a bit like riding a sewing machine at 80mph.

    - Electric scooters aren’t ready for prime time yet. Besides the cost, they simply don’t have a sufficient range to make them useful.

    - I know Bryce. I count him as a friend. That said, I believe he is mistaken about the pollution levels _per_mile_ of scooters, having been suckered in by the same faulty information cited by this story. While scooters may put out more pollutants as a percentage of volume, their overall volume is far less than any car. The better metric would be grams of pollutant per mile, and this is in fact what the EPA counts.

    - Everything Ecorazzi thinks they know about scooters is either incorrect or twenty years out of date. Modern scooters are not the same beast as the loud, obnoxious two-stroke scooters of yesteryear. They are cleaner, more fuel efficient, and quieter than any gasoline-burning car or motorcycle on the road today. Please stop using two-stroke scooters as a point of comparison — it is misleading at best.

    - There are no solar or biodiesel scooters on the market today. While there have been announcements about research and prototyping, there are no hybrid scooters either.

  • JC

    My Vespa ET4 was classified as a motorcycle and inspected as such in my state. It was relatively quiet and did not “smoke” like old mopeds did, and I could do all my errands in a month on less than a tank. (Notice this is all past tense — because an SUV hit me several months ago and totaled it.)
    I love keeping up with ecorazzi, but perhaps instead of cluck-clucking at peoples’ choice to use a scooter, we should be praising them for not keeping an Escalade running on the street.

  • Chris

    I think there’s a significant disconnect here between a scooter and a moped, as well. Simply put, the mopeds, which are rarely seen these days in the US, were typically the smaller, noisier, dirtier two-stroke vehicles. While there are 49cc two-stroke scooters out there, and they’re trivial to get, they’re what we usually see as delivery scooters, if anything. They’re small, they’re noisy, they’re dirty, and what’s worse, they’re poorly maintained.

    It is absurdly difficult to get around town with a passenger on a 50cc scooter. What most of these eco-friendly, new-entry scooter enthusiasts have picked is a modern, 4-stroke scooter. This *is* less fuel efficient than a 2-stroke, and has a lower power-to-weight ratio, but it’s cleaner. Additionally, modern scooters have catalytic converters, further reducing emissions.

    Yes, in some cases, your tiny 50cc scooters can skirt around a few laws and pump out a ton of crap. Since these 50cc bikes are also perfect for getting around small towns, dense, slow-moving traffic, and smaller roads, they’re what end up in other countries, too. That’s why, for example, a scooter-heavy city like Taipei has such a heavy veil of smog.

    That said, electrics aren’t much of an option, either. For one, I travel outside the range of an electric scooter fairly often. Charging isn’t exactly as simple as filling a tank with gas, so I’d have to own two vehicles, which actually worsens my environmental impact, since now I have two vehicles, twice the manufacturing, twice the materials, and at the end of their usable lives, twice the waste.

    It doesn’t end there. People seem to think that electricity is this magically clean resource. It’s not. It’s energy, stored in a chemical medium, to be released. What’s used as this medium? In many cases, lead-acid batteries. We’re just now seeing a move to Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries, and the Prius is slated to move to Lithium-Ion batteries. Over time, these batteries cannot be recharged, and then we have to take into account the impact of recycling these batteries.

    The scooter isn’t perfect, but a modern one does meet even California’s strict emissions standards, without skirting around a single rule. Can it be cleaner? Sure. Can we move to diesel (and therefore biodiesel?) Maybe. Are alternative fuels a good idea? Of course. Let’s just not paint scooters as a consistent problem, especially when going off of invalid numbers. The scooter is still the cleanest option for 95% of my use cases, where I actually do have to travel to places within timeframes that public transportation cannot address.