Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after four years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter made for commuters along with a ridiculously ambitious plan to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, just like you would essentially any other electric vehicle in the world – instead, Gogoro does have its sights set on user-swappable batteries as well as a vast network of battery swapping stations that could cover among the most densely populated cities worldwide.
I first got a glimpse of the system with an event a few weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the space using the charm, energy, and nerves of your man who has been revealing his life’s passion the very first time. Luke can be a designer by trade with long stints at Nike, Microsoft, and HTC under his belt, along with his creative roots show in everything Gogoro has done. The scooter just looks fresh, as though Luke hasn’t designed one before (which happens to be true).
Maybe it’s the former smartphone designer in him that’s showing through. Luke is joined by several former colleagues at HTC, including co-founder Matt Taylor. Cher Wang, HTC’s billionaire founder, counts herself among Gogoro’s investors. The corporation has raised an absolute of $150 million, that is now at stake mainly because it attempts to convince riders, cities, and anyone else who can listen that it may pull this all off.
At the high level, Gogoro is announcing the Smartscooter. It’s possibly the coolest two-wheeled runabout you could buy: it’s electric, looks unlike whatever else in the marketplace, 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 in a smartphone companion app, where you can change a number of vehicle settings. The key, a circular white fob, is completely wireless as with a modern day car. You may even download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and the like; it’s a certain amount of an homage towards the founders’ roots at HTC, inside 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 through the company’s test rider – and it hits 50 km/h (31 mph) in 4.2 seconds. (It’s surreal going to a scooter, the icon of practical personal transport, lay the perfect circle of rubber with a public street since the rider slowly pivots the appliance on its front wheel.) Top speed is 60 mph, which compares favorably to some 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 on the pavement along the way. Luke says they’re attractive to young riders, plus 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 city (Gogoro calls them GoStations) to swap your batteries, an operation that only takes a few seconds. Anticipation would be that the company can sell the Smartscooter for the very same cost like a premium gasoline model by taking off the very expensive cells, instead offering utilization of the GoStations via a subscription plan. The subscription takes the location of your money you’d otherwise invest in gas; you’re basically paying monthly for the energy. In the event the “sharing economy” is hot right now – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro wants to establish itself since the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The corporation hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or the subscription plans yet.)
“By 2030, there’s going to be 41 megacities, many within the developing world,” Luke says, pointing to a map dedicated to Southeast Asia. It’s a region which includes succumbed to extreme air pollution lately, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, and a rising middle-class with money to pay. It’s yet another region that will depend on two-wheeled transportation in a way that the Civilized world never has. Scooters, which flow from the thousands with the clogged streets of metropolises like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, are ripe targets for slashing smog; many models actually belch more pollutants in the air than 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 produce the electricity somehow, all things considered – but Luke and Taylor are very well-prepared for the question, insisting that you’re better off burning coal outside a town to power clean vehicles within it. Long lasting, 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 containing enjoyed the EV spotlight in recent times as a result of its partnership with Tesla plus an investment in Elon Musk’s vaunted Gigafactory. These are generally no Tesla batteries, though: each dark gray brick weighs approximately the same as being a bowling ball, built with an ergonomic bright green handle on a single end. They’re made to be lugged around by anyone and everyone, however i can imagine really small riders battling with the heft. Luke and Panasonic EVP Yoshi Yamada appear to be as interested in 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 put into a certified device, and they’re completely inert otherwise.
That circuitry is without a doubt driven in part from a desire to lock down Gogoro’s ecosystem and render the batteries useless to anyone not employing a Gogoro-sanctioned device – yes, battery DRM – but it’s also about creating the battery swapping experience seamless. The Smartscooter’s bulbous seat lifts to disclose a lighted cargo area as well as two battery docks. Riders requiring more power would stop at GoStation, grab both batteries from under the seat, and slide them in to the kiosk’s spring-loaded slo-ts. The equipment identifies the rider based on the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for just about any warnings or problems which have been recorded (say, a brake light has gone out or maybe the scooter was dropped since the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a brand new set of batteries, all in the course of about six seconds. I’d guess that this experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and be back on your way in under 30 seconds.
The notion exploits certain realities about scooters that aren’t necessarily true for other kinds of vehicles. Most of all, they’re strictly urban machines: you won’t generally ride a scooter cross-country, and you also definitely won’t be capable of with a Smartscooter. It’s made to stay inside of the footprint in the GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on one charge – not good in comparison to a gas model, but the thing is tempered to many degree by how effortless battery swaps are. A dense network of swapping stations solves electric’s single biggest challenge, which happens to be charge time.
If Luke is definitely the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor is the arbiter of reality, the man behind the curtain translating Luke’s fever dreams into tangible results. An ongoing 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 as if they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time has come. “What you’ve seen today could not have been done three or four yrs ago,” he beams, noting that everything regarding the Smartscooter was developed in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t good enough. The liquid-cooled motor is made by Gogoro. So may be the unique aluminum frame, which is acoustically enhanced to give the scooter a Jetsons-esque sound because it whizzes by.
Two batteries power the Smartscooter for roughly 60 miles between swaps.
Taylor also beams when talking regarding the cloud that connects the GoStations to just one another and to the Smartscooters. Everything learns from anything else. Stations with good traffic could possibly be set to charge batteries faster plus more frequently, while lower-use stations might delay until late from the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. Since the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations could possibly be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. Together with the smartphone app, drivers can reserve batteries at nearby stations for up to 10 mins. Luke says there’ll inevitably be times the location where the station you want 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 yearly.
But therein lies the trouble: the way Gogoro works – and the only method it works – is simply by flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is the thing that we’re searching for,” Luke says, noting the company offers the capital to roll to a few urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $ten thousand” each, would be properties of Gogoro, not a 3rd party. They may go virtually anywhere – they cart inside and outside, are vandalism-resistant, and screw into position – but someone still must negotiate with home owners to obtain them deployed and powered. It’s a massive, expensive task that runs a very high risk of bureaucratic inefficiency, and it needs to be repeated ad nauseam for every single 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 desire for San Francisco, where our briefing was held. He says there’ll be news on deployments in 2015.
Company officials are focusing on that initial launch (and for good reason), but there’s much more on the horizon. Without offering any details, they claim there are other sorts of vehicles in development that will take advantage of Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically inquire about cars, since it doesn’t often me that you could effectively power a whole-on automobile by incorporating bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel is not unthinkable by any means,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro like a platform that other vehicle makers can use, but leaves it open being a possibility.
So when the batteries aren’t good enough to use on the streets anymore – about 70 % with their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t would like to recycle them. Instead, it envisions a full “second life” for 1000s of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there could even be a third life next, powering lights and small appliances in extremely rural areas around the globe. For now, though, he’s just looking to get the electric assist bike launched.
At the end of my briefing, I looked back through my notes to completely digest the absurdity of what Gogoro is attempting to complete: launch a car coming from a company containing never done so, power it by using a worldwide network of proprietary battery vending machines, launch some more vehicle models, sell old batteries to Google and Facebook, wash, rinse, repeat. Reduce smog, balance power grids, save the entire world. I will certainly see why it had been an attractive option to the incremental grind of designing the subsequent smartphone at HTC – but I also can make a disagreement that they’re from their minds.
I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also debate that you’ve got to become 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, therefore we did from the soil up.”