Public Transport

A low carbon Segway user yesterday

A low carbon Segway user yesterday

So we have finished our real world testing of the Segway PT, and we have made the following observations:

1 – The average footprint has increased from 16.6 to 24.9 g/km with more data points.
2 – We have also calculated figures for other large industrialised nations – e.g.: Italy is 21g/km, and the US is 30 g/km based on their standard electricity generation figures.
3 – Clear would suggest rider experience has a large impact on the footprint. Experienced riders were likely to be between 16.6 and 20.9 g/km, whereas beginners create between 26.1 and 40.1 g/km. It appears from the data that beginners use significantly more power to travel a given distance – I would suggest this is as a result of more energy being used for balance as opposed to forward motion.
4 – The Segway PT is still the lowest carbon motorised method of getting from A to B in the UK.

The link to the whole document is below:

After the previous revelation that the Cheeky Girls are going to save the earth due to Segway PT’s, their head of marketing for Europe called me up at the Clear office, and asked if I’d ever tried one. Rather sheepishly I had to say I hadn’t, so he put me in contact with arguably the keenest owner in the UK. Isidore Margaronis is a great chap who commutes from Notting Hill to Piccadilly every day on his Segway.Isidore on his Segway

Putting a staggering amount of trust in a complete stranger, Isidore gave me a quick lesson, then let me loose on his Segway i2. Even though I’d probably feel less self-conscious walking across the pitch at Wembley stadium wearing a chicken suit, it was a lot of fun. Extremely easy to ride, very smooth and a bizarre but very intuitive design. Lean forward, go forward. Lean back, go back. Simple as that.

Anyway, I was interested to validate the manufacturer’s claims for the battery performance / range to confirm it’s environmental credentials, and Isidore kindly took some measurements for his, and from this we’ve created a White Paper, which you can download here and gives all the justification and some comparisons with other modes of transport. Although our original figure of 13 g/km was slightly optimistic, a “real world” figure of 16.6 g/km is still highly impressive, especially when you consider taking the bus is about 94 g/km.The off road Segway

What’s also interesting is that the DfT are still maintaining that the Segway is technically illegal to use other than on private land under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (yes, that is 1835). Sutton Police are also trialling them (for use on patrol and I’m told that initial feedback is good. There is also a very active group
pushing for their legalisation and you get the feeling they’re not going to give up without a fight.

So will we one day see hordes of Segways prowling the streets? It’s hard to say. I suspect the DfT will eventually come to their senses, and class them as bicycles / electric bicycles and allow their use on the road / cycle lanes, as they are the most comparable form of transport.

I’m also glad to say that this story does not quite end here, as Clear are being lent a Segway i2 in the next month or so to further test and validate it’s environmental credentials (although we really fancied the off-road version the x2). So thank you Cheeky Girls, you may save the environment after all….segway_co2_white_paper_v12

So here in London, Boris Johnson has announced he’s going to create a cycle scheme along the lines of the Velib in Paris. He may look like Worzel Gummidge’s mad cousin, but I Boris, outside a barber's yesterdaysuspect he’s a very smart cookie. Good on him.

Now, if this scheme were to take off, then potentially less buses or tube trains would be needed (as if there are enough already! – ed), and this could have a beneficial impact on the carbon footprint of London. So what’s might that be?

Well, 6,000 cycles are going to be used in zone 1, so let’s assume that roughly:

  • 25% replace tube journeys* @ 65.0 g/km
  • 25% replace bus journeys* @ 81.8 g/km
  • 25% replace cab journeys @ 172 g/km
  • 25% replace walking journeys @ 0 g/km

A Parisian Street YesterdaySo, assuming cycling is carbon neutral, that’s an average of 79.7 g/km improvement for every passenger km.

Assuming that any bike in use is averaging 5km / hr through central London, and that at any one point averaged throughout the day (more during the day and less at night of course), 30% of the cycles are in use. Then we can assume that at any point then we can assume that 1800 of them are being crashed by lost tourists, and 9000 km being cycled every hour. Over a day that’s 216,000 km pedalled, or 17.2 tonnes of carbon offset every day. That’s pretty good Boris.

However, does anyone else have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of Boris’s bikes will disappear by the truckload and end up in Albania ?

This world-changing suggestion starts, as all good things should, with the Cheeky Girls. Or more accurately Lembit Opik, the Lim Dem MP who rose into the public consciousness after getting engaged to one of the Romanian lovelies in a publicity stunt. Recently Mr Opik rode a Segway up and down up and down outside the Houses of Parliament, challenging ministers to have him arrested. Why did he want to be arrested? Well currently in the UK, Segways can only be used on private land as they are illegal to use on highways or pavements. However I believe that Segway’s can save the Earth from Climate Change (well a little bit anyway), and I’m going to prove it here.

A Segway

A Segway

So what is a Segway? Well, if you haven’t come across them, they’re a bit like an electric stand up scooter, carrying one person at 12mph for up to 24 miles.  As a guide in the UK, they cost £4,300 including VAT. Hailed as a revolution in transport, they’re yet to catch on in the UK mainly due to their legal status and the still remaining stigma of the Sinclair C5, the last comparable electric vehicle. Segway themselves expected to sell 40,000 of them a year, but in the last 6 years only about 30,000 have been shifted in total.

Anyway, back to the point. How much CO2 in g/km is a Segway responsible for? Well, based on an estimated battery capacity of 0.8kwh, a full charge (and range of 24 miles) is about 0.42 kg of CO2, which being a little more realistic with a range of 20 miles works out at 13 g/km. Which is quite impressive if you compare it to taking the Tube (52.6 g/km), National Rail (60.2 g/km), Bus (94.3 g/km) or even the average Car (160 g/km).

So in carbon terms alone riding a Segway to work would produce less than 15% of the CO2 that taking the Bus does.

How about speed? 12 mph isn’t fast is it? Well in London the average bus makes headway at just 8mph, the average tram 16 mph and tube 18 mph. So 12 mph isn’t that bad at all.

How about range then? Well, taking a London-centric view again, the Segway would get you from Croydon to the middle of London and back on a single charge which is probably further than you’d actually want to travel.

OK then, biggest issue is cost. £4,300 is very expensive for a battery with wheels. Well taking the example of a bus again, let’s say a new one costs £125,000. Well, that would buy you almost 30 Segways. Take into account the cost of driver’s salaries and other running costs of about the same again every year. Assuming you could pick up and drop off Segways at bus stops along the lines of the Velib in Paris (and they were evenly distributed around a city), then realistically after 2 years, you will have paid for a Segway for every passenger (90) on an average bus.

Or from the commuter’s point of view, an annual zone 1-4 Travelcard costs £1,384. That’s 3 years and 2 months before you start saving money on your travelcard. And from then on, you’re saving £1,369 a year on travel costs. (They cost about 7p to completely recharge every day that’s £15 a year in “fuel” costs.)

So there you go. For a typical London commuter doing an 8 mile commute, a Segway would save about 200kg from their carbon footprint every year.

And this beautiful Utopian vision is all thanks to the Cheeky Girls.

Speed-bump, road hump, speed ramp or sleeping policemen. Let’s face it by any name they are the bane of urban driving (unless of course you make your living selling replacement shock absorbers). They’re a hassle, damage cars and cause urbanites to drive otherwise unnecessary 4x4s (in my experience anyway). Yes, average speeds are reduced, but so is your attention of what’s up ahead as you’re trying not to clout your exhaust on that unnecessary piece of road calming. Other complaints made against them are that they slow down emergency services (endangering lives), they are particularly unhealthy for people with back or neck pain and create noise for local residents.

Speed Humps

Speed Humps

But I can add another one, that they’re giving the poor Polar Bears an early bath. Yup, that speed bump round the corner on Mornington Close is directly responsible for the increasing popularity of bear-centric swimming lessons at the North Pole. So let me tell you how….

The AA (Automobile Association) did a bit of research on fuel consumption for cars at the Millbrook Proving Ground and found that a typical mid-size car running at a constant 30 mph did 58 mpg. However a car slowing down and speeding up for speed bumps only did 31 mpg. Put that into carbon figures* for a petrol car** and you get 113 g/km of CO2 at a constant 30mph, or 211 g/km over speed bumps. So a kilometer of road with speed bumps creates an extra 0.1kg of CO2 for every single car that travels it.

For argument’s sake, lets say this km of road has on a average a car going each way down it every minute during the day and night***. In a year, that means a single stretch of road creates an extra 103 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 per year. We’re making estimates here, but if that km of road has 10 of the UK’s estimated 100,000 speed humps, then speed bumps in Britain are responsible for a colossal 1.03 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That’s about the same as the total carbon footprint of the 830,000 residents of Fiji, or almost twice that of Greenland. Ouch.



You can console yourself that as a UK taxpayer, based on the estimate that 50 standard humps on three or four connecting residential streets costs about £150,000. So the UK speed hump population cost us £300 million pounds. Which is about what Newcastle United would cost you if you wondered up to St James’ Park with a really big chequebook this morning.

*Clear research

** A diesel car is actually worse with 128 v 240 g/km

*** More in the day and less at night of course

More information here.

You want to be environmentally conscious right? Reduce your carbon footprint, do the right thing and save the polar bears? But in the back of your mind, you’ve always wanted that sports car you could never afford. That present you’d always promised yourself. But sports cars aren’t exactly the environment’s best friend are they? Can you really have the best of both worlds?

A Green Porsche

A Green Porsche

Well the answer is yes, and to demonstrate how I’m going to use two flatmates, Vegetarian Sam and Capitalist Rufus. They both work in central London, live in the suburbs and both require non-public transport at weekends, holiday in the same place and have very similar lifestyles. The only difference between them is the transport choices they make.

Sam takes the train (60.2g/km*) and bus (67.8g/km*) to work everyday. He has a 6 year old Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi (145 g/km*) which he drives at weekends.

Rufus rides a scooter (Vespa 50cc @ 72g/km**) to work and at weekends and refuses to use public transport. He (cue much teeth-sucking disapproval) also has a Porsche Boxster (227 g/km* for the weekends). And let’s try not to hate him just because he has a Porsche. Let’s pretend he uses it at the weekends to take old people to the seaside.

Sam and Rufus work in the same office everyday do exactly the same distance each year, so how can Rufus, the Porsche-driving capitalist scum be greener than his vegetarian, flip-flop wearing flatmate?

The Commute:

Sam and Rufus both travel from Clapham Junction to Liverpool Street every day. Sam takes the train to Waterloo (6.3km = 0.76 kg CO2) then the bus for (4.8 km = 0.65 kg CO2) giving a total of 1.41 kg per return journey.

Rufus goes direct door to door on his Vespa which is 8.9 km (compared to Sam’s 11.1km), producing 1.28 kg of CO2 for his return journey.

The Weekend:

Sam and Rufus both travel at the weekends, and they each rack up 4,000 miles per year driving in some form. Sam does all his miles in his Focus (934kg of CO2), whereas Rufus does 1,500 of these in his beloved Porsche taking old people to the seaside (548 kg of CO2), while the other 2,500 he does on his trusty scooter (290 kg of CO2), a grand total of 838kg.

The Total:

So where does that leave us?

CO2 Footprint Commute*** Weekends Total

Sam 310 kg 934 kg 1,244 kg

Rufus 282 kg 838 kg 1,120 kg

So vegetarian Sam takes public transport to work every day, drives an efficient diesel car but still has a 10% bigger carbon footprint than capitalist Rufus and his petrol guzzling Porsche even though they travel exactly the same distance.

So can you be green and drive a Porsche? Looks like it. It just goes to show that it’s not quite as simple as it seems to condone sports cars….


* / VCA car fuel data.

** Clear analysis

*** 220 days a year

So you want to reduce your carbon footprint right? But you still have to get from A to B and back again. So what’s the cleanest way to go in terms of CO2?

The obvious one is to walk or cycle. Both are essentially carbon neutral, though if you were really being pedantic, you could say that the extra effort does make you breathe a bit harder. But its not a lot.

However, what if you have to go a bit further? Out of range of leg power? Your first suggestion might be the bus, maybe a train? Perhaps if you have to drive, then take the Toyota Prius? Well it’s not quite that straightforward, and the results might surprise you…

How clean is your commute?

CO2 g/km by mode of transport

So what does this mean?

Well, if you’re going a long way and want to cut your footprint, don’t bother with the train. Instead give National Express a call and hop on.

And how about occupancy? For example, 2 people on a 50cc scooter would be pretty slow, but at 36 g/km its even cleaner than a coach. 4 people in a VW Polo Bluemotion? Less than 25g/km each. To put that in context, a Bentley Continental GT with 1 person is 410 g/km.

And that cab you took home last night after too many beers? Ouch…

Data Sources / Notes:

1. Sources of data: VCA car fuel data, analysis, DEFRA, TFL, Going Green.

2. Flight figures do not include any form of radiative forcing index.

3. G-Wiz figure is an equivalent CO2 figure if the electricity is produced from the national grid.

4. All bikes are 4-stroke.

Note: This blog is written on behalf of Clear the carbon offset company.