Scooters spewing unintended consequences - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Scooters spewing unintended consequences

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MADISON (WKOW) -- There is an appeal to having that feeling of the open road and the freedom to scoot around town on many, many miles per gallon.  In some cases, a simple scooter can net more than 100 mpg.

Like the rest of us, Dan Hein, a small engine expert at Madison Gas and Electric, has seen an surge of scooters on Madison's streets.

"They're very hot right now," Hein said. "Obviously, sales are up 30- to 40-percent over just two years."

Now let's get down to earth about this.  There's a smelly irony about scooters.  In many cases, using fewer fossil fuels means making more pollution.

Hein said generally, most older model scooters (anything before 2003) have what's called two stroke engines. Gas mixes directly with oil, and emits huge amounts of chemicals that form smog and ground-level ozone. Hein compared a small two-gallon engine in these scooters to an average car.

"You'll see twice as much pollution coming from that two gallons of gas from a scooter than you would out of a car," he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency began cracking down on these emissions about two years ago. As a result, many companies now make a cleaner, four-stroke engine.

"It's been an ongoing thing, but the regulations have gotten tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter."

Reality, however, is that there are many older two-strokes around, not affected because they were made before tighter regulations.

Just in the parking lot behind the University of Wisconsin's Union South, Hein found many older model two-strokes.

A quick check on Madison Craigslist also found plenty of scooters for sale. Many of them were older models, some from the 1980's.

It means one solution from high prices, may spew unintended consequences.

The EPA's stricter standards for scooter emissions is based on an average. So a company can still make a number of highly polluting two-wheelers, as long as they also make many that are better than the standard.

Earlier this decade, the agency also passed similar guidelines concerning the sales of new highway motorcycles.

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