According to a report, around 500 e-scooters have been found on the bottom of the Rhine. Leaking batteries can be dangerous. Some rental companies do not seem to feel responsible for the recovery and are finding it difficult to prevent the problem.
Divers have found hundreds of electric scooters in the Rhine. The WDR reports. Evaluated GPS data have shown that the scooters are in the area of the Hohenzollern Bridge in downtown Cologne – thrown into the Rhine by rioters.
One of the largest e-scooter providers wanted to commission the Cologne-based construction diver Markus Hambüchen’s company to recover the 500 scooters. But then the costs for the deployment were too high for the provider. “As a result, the man in charge said that it was not worth taking the scooters out of the Rhine with the costs. They should stay where they are,” Hambüchen reports to WDR.
Problem for the drinking water?
According to the expert, the scrap in the water is not only an obstacle during construction work, but also a massive problem for nature because of the chemicals leaking from the batteries. This is also confirmed by Paul Kröfges, the water expert from the Association for Environmental and Nature Conservation Germany in North Rhine-Westphalia, quoted in the report: “There are hundreds of these vehicles in the Rhine in Cologne alone, toxic and dangerous substances are released and the owners want to leave their scrap in the Rhine. The responsible environmental authorities cannot accept that. The Rhine supplies drinking water to around 30 million people in Europe “.
The scooter supplier concerned asserts that “all scooters that are within reach will be taken out of the water.” However, the Rhine is deep and the current strong, making it difficult to get all the vehicles out. At the same time he referred to the Cologne association “KRAKE”, which allegedly takes care of salvage of this kind.
“But we don’t have the technology at all and also not the ability to recover such vehicles from the stream. What is being said is wrong,” said club founder Christian Stock, commenting on the information given to the WDR. The non-profit association has already brought e-scooters out of the Rhine – but only from near the shore when the water level is low.
Scooter vendors are hesitant to respond to the problem
Five e-scooter providers were confronted by the WDR with questions about the problem, many remained unanswered. The Tier company writes that “it only happens very rarely that one of our scooters is thrown into the Rhine or other waters and we just cannot salvage it directly”. The provider denies the risk to the water from leaking batteries. Competitor Voi also claims that the batteries are safe.
A swan next to an e-scooter swimming in Cologne’s Mediapark: The picture is from November 2019 and shows: The problem is not just on the Rhine. (Source: Volker Adolf)
Voi now wants to get the vehicles out of the Rhine with its own staff, whereas the rental companies Tier and Lime claim to be working with the “KRAKE” association in this regard. Only the provider Bird plans to “commission a specialist company with the recovery in the Rhine as soon as possible.”
In order to prevent further scrap in the Rhine, parking bans on the part of VOI and Bird are now to be imposed for e-scooters on the riverbank.
A kind of ban mile around water also makes sense in the eyes of Christian Stock. Anyone who has to drag an e-scooter 200 meters to throw it into the water will think twice. “The inhibition threshold is then greater,” said Stock to t-online.
Last year it must have been very low for some people. In September of last year, Stock and other supporters of “KRAKE” pulled well over 30 e-scooters and rental bicycles out of the water in a relatively small area on the Rhine. At that time the Rhine level was low, so that the members of the association could do this with simple methods.
For over a year, the association that Stock set up a few years ago has been carrying out regular clean-ups. At the last big Rhine Cleanup Day in autumn 2020 there were 700 people who took part. “This year we want to start another big clean-up day on September 11th.” He doesn’t like to say how many e-scooters will then appear along the Rhine. “If in doubt, unfortunately more,” says Christian Stock.
No danger to shipping
Incidentally, there are no risks or dangers for shipping from the e-scooters thrown into the Rhine. “They can be compared to other objects such as bicycles or shopping carts, which unfortunately are repeatedly brought into water,” said a spokesman for the Rhine waterways and shipping office when asked by t-online. A ship’s hull or even a ship’s propeller would not be seriously damaged if it came into contact with such objects. “It could be more dangerous if bicycles, e-scooters or the like fall onto the deck of a ship – especially a passenger ship.”
If the batteries of the electric scooter pose a possible environmental hazard for the water, “the duty to avert danger is basically the responsibility of the federal states”. The responsible water authority would have to order the recovery of the scooters and direct this order against a responsible disruptor. “This would then also be obliged to bear the costs,” said the spokesman. In this specific case, the city of Cologne, as the lower water authority, would be responsible for such measures.
Currently, the Rhine waterways and shipping authority sees no need to approach the providers of e-scooters, because it is to be assumed “that the lenders will take measures in their own interest to reduce the number of ‘lost’ scooters,” said the spokesman .