Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after 4 years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter created for commuters together with a ridiculously ambitious decide to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, as if you would essentially some other electric vehicle on the planet – instead, Gogoro has its sights set on user-swappable batteries as well as a vast network of battery swapping stations that may cover probably the most densely populated cities in the world.
I first got a glimpse of the system at an event weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the space with all the charm, energy, and nerves of your man who has been revealing his life’s passion for the first time. Luke is a designer by trade with long stints at Nike, Microsoft, and HTC under his belt, with his fantastic creative roots show in everything Gogoro did. The scooter just looks fresh, as though Luke hasn’t designed one before (that is true).
Maybe it’s the previous smartphone designer in him that’s showing through. Luke is joined by numerous former colleagues at HTC, including co-founder Matt Taylor. Cher Wang, HTC’s billionaire founder, counts herself among Gogoro’s investors. The company has raised an overall total of $150 million, which can be now at stake since it attempts to convince riders, cities, and anybody else who will listen that it could pull this all off.
In a advanced level, Gogoro is announcing the Smartscooter. It’s most likely the coolest two-wheeled runabout you can get: it’s electric, looks unlike anything else out there, and incorporates a myriad of legitimately unique features. All-LED headlights and taillights with programmable action sequences lend a Knight Rider aesthetic. An always-on Bluetooth connection links right into a smartphone companion app, where you could change a variety of vehicle settings. The important thing, a circular white fob, is totally wireless like in an advanced car. You can also download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and the like; it’s some an homage to the founders’ roots at HTC, in an industry where ringtones are big business.
“Electric scooter” inherently sounds safe and slow, but Gogoro is working hard to dispel that image upfront. It’ll reliably do smoky burnouts – several were demonstrated to me from the company’s test rider – plus it hits 50 km/h (31 mph) in 4.2 seconds. (It’s surreal visiting a scooter, the icon of practical personal transport, lay an ideal circle of rubber with a public street as being the rider slowly pivots the machine on its front wheel.) Top speed is 60 mph, which compares favorably to a Vespa 946’s 57 mph. The company’s promotional video features a black leather-clad badass leaning hard through sweeping turns, superbike-style, dragging his knees around the pavement in the process. Luke says they’re appealing to young riders, and yes it certainly comes through.
It’s not just that you don’t plug the Smartscooter in – you can’t. When power runs low, you visit charging kiosks placed strategically around a town (Gogoro calls them GoStations) to swap your batteries, an operation that only takes a matter of moments. The hope would be that the company can sell the Smartscooter for the similar cost like a premium gasoline model by taking out the extremely expensive cells, instead offering utilization of the GoStations through a subscription plan. The subscription takes the area in the money you’d otherwise invest in gas; you’re basically paying monthly for your energy. When the “sharing economy” is hot today – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro wishes to establish itself since the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The corporation hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or maybe the subscription plans yet.)
“By 2030, there’s gonna be 41 megacities, the majority from the developing world,” Luke says, pointing into a map focused on Southeast Asia. It’s a region which includes succumbed to extreme air pollution in recent times, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, and a rising middle-class with money to invest. It’s yet another region that depends on two-wheeled transportation in a way that the Western world never has. Scooters, which flow from the thousands from the clogged streets of metropolises like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, are ripe targets for slashing smog; many models actually belch more pollutants into the air compared to a modern sedan.
Electric vehicles are often maligned for merely moving the pollution problem elsewhere as opposed to solving it outright – you’ve have got to make the electricity somehow, after all – but Luke and Taylor are very-prepared for the question, insisting that you’re more satisfied burning coal away from a major city to power clean vehicles inside of it. Long-term, they note, clean energy probably becomes viable in today’s emerging markets.
Opened for service, the Smartscooter looks almost alien-like.
The batteries happen to be designed together with Panasonic, a prolific battery supplier which includes enjoyed the EV spotlight lately because of its partnership with Tesla along with an investment in Elon Musk’s vaunted Gigafactory. They are no Tesla batteries, though: each dark gray brick weighs about the same as a bowling ball, equipped with an ergonomic bright green handle in one end. They’re built to be lugged around by anyone and everyone, nevertheless i can imagine really small riders struggling with the heft. Luke and Panasonic EVP Yoshi Yamada are most often as pumped up about the batteries as anything else, lauding their NFC authentication, 256-bit encryption (“banks use 128-bit encryption,” Luke says), and smart circuitry. Basically, they’ll refuse to charge or discharge unless placed in an authorized device, and they’re completely inert otherwise.
That circuitry is without question driven partly from a desire to lock down Gogoro’s ecosystem and render the batteries useless to anyone not by using a Gogoro-sanctioned device – yes, battery DRM – but it’s also about producing battery swapping experience seamless. The Smartscooter’s bulbous seat lifts to show a lighted cargo area as well as two battery docks. Riders needing more power would stop at GoStation, grab both batteries from underneath the seat, and slide them to the kiosk’s spring-loaded slo-ts. The device identifies the rider in accordance with the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for just about any warnings or problems which were recorded (say, a brake light has gone out or perhaps the scooter was dropped because the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a new pair of batteries, all in the course of about six seconds. I’d guess that the experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and be back on the road in less than 30 seconds.
The reasoning exploits certain realities about scooters that aren’t necessarily true for other sorts of vehicles. Most of all, they’re strictly urban machines: you won’t generally ride a scooter cross-country, so you definitely won’t have the capacity to by using a Smartscooter. It’s created to stay inside of the footprint in the GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on a single charge – not so good compared to a gas model, but the issue is tempered to some degree by how effortless the battery swaps are. A dense network of swapping stations solves electric’s single biggest challenge, which happens to be charge time.
If Luke will be the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor may be the arbiter of reality, the man behind the scenes translating Luke’s fever dreams into tangible results. A lifelong engineer at Motorola and Microsoft before his time at HTC, Taylor spends my briefing burning through spec sheet after spec sheet, datum after datum. It’s like they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time has come. “What you’ve seen today could not have access to been done 3 or 4 years back,” he beams, noting that everything in regards to the Smartscooter was designed in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t good enough. The liquid-cooled motor is produced by Gogoro. So will be the unique aluminum frame, which happens to be acoustically enhanced to offer the scooter a Jetsons-esque sound because it whizzes by.
Two batteries power the Smartscooter for approximately 60 miles between swaps.
Taylor also beams when conversing in regards to the cloud that connects the GoStations to 1 another and also to the Smartscooters. Everything learns from anything else. Stations rich in traffic may be set to charge batteries faster and a lot more frequently, while lower-use stations might hold back until late from the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. Since the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations might be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. With all the smartphone app, drivers can reserve batteries at nearby stations for about 10 mins. Luke says there’ll inevitably be times where the station you need doesn’t have charged batteries available, however with careful planning and load balancing, he hopes it won’t happen more often than once or twice a year.
But therein lies the situation: just how Gogoro works – and the only way the system functions – is simply by flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is the thing that we’re trying to find,” Luke says, noting how the company offers the capital to roll out to 1 or 2 urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $ten thousand” each, could be properties of Gogoro, not a third party. They can go basically anywhere – they cart inside and outside, are vandalism-resistant, and screw into place – but someone still needs to negotiate with home owners to obtain them deployed and powered. It’s a big, expensive task that runs a very high likelihood of bureaucratic inefficiency, and it must be repeated ad nauseam for each city where Gogoro wants its scooters. Up to now, it isn’t naming which cities will dexmpky62 first, but Southeast Asia is clearly priority one. Luke also seems to take great interest in San Francisco, where our briefing was held. He says there’ll be news on deployments in 2015.
Company officials are centering on that initial launch (and even for good reason), but there’s much more on the horizon. Without offering any details, they claim there are many sorts of vehicles in development that will utilize Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically enquire about cars, because it doesn’t manage to me that one could effectively power a full-on automobile with a few bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel will not be out of the question whatsoever,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro as being a platform that other vehicle makers could use, but leaves it open being a possibility.
And once the batteries aren’t good enough to use on the streets anymore – about 70 percent with their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t desire to recycle them. Instead, it envisions a whole “second life” for thousands of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there could even be considered a third life after that, powering lights and small appliances in extremely rural areas around the world. For the time being, though, he’s just attempting to get the electric assist bike launched.
At the conclusion of my briefing, I looked back through my notes to fully digest the absurdity of the Gogoro is wanting to accomplish: launch a car or truck from your company that has never done so, power it having a worldwide network of proprietary battery vending machines, launch a few more vehicle models, sell old batteries to Google and Facebook, wash, rinse, repeat. Reduce smog, balance power grids, save the planet. I could certainly discover why it absolutely was an appealing alternative to the incremental grind of designing the next smartphone at HTC – having said that i can also make a disagreement that they’re out of their minds.
I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also reason that you’ve got as a little crazy to battle something this big. If he’s feeling any late-stage trepidation within the magnitude in the undertaking, he certainly isn’t showing it. “Everything was approximately getting it perfect, and then we did everything from the floor up.”