Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after 4 years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter designed for commuters along with a ridiculously ambitious intend to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, just like you would essentially some other electric vehicle in the world – instead, Gogoro have their sights set on user-swappable batteries plus a vast network of battery swapping stations that can cover many of the most densely populated cities on earth.
I first got a glimpse of the system in an event a few weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the room together with the charm, energy, and nerves of the man who was revealing his life’s passion the first time. Luke can be a designer by trade with long stints at Nike, Microsoft, and HTC under his belt, and his awesome creative roots show in everything Gogoro did. The scooter just looks fresh, like Luke hasn’t designed one before (which can be true).
Maybe it’s the first kind smartphone designer in him that’s showing through. Luke is joined by a variety of 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 a total of $150 million, which is now at risk because it tries to convince riders, cities, and anybody else that will listen that it will pull this off.
With a advanced level, Gogoro is announcing the Smartscooter. It’s likely the coolest two-wheeled runabout you can buy: it’s electric, looks unlike other things on the market, and incorporates a host of legitimately unique features. All-LED headlights and taillights with programmable action sequences lend a Knight Rider aesthetic. An always-on Bluetooth connection links into a smartphone companion app, where you could change a number of vehicle settings. The important thing, a circular white fob, is utterly wireless as with a contemporary car. You may even download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and the like; it’s a bit of an homage on the founders’ roots at HTC, within an industry where ringtones are big business.
“Electric scooter” inherently sounds safe and slow, but Gogoro is spending so much time to dispel that image upfront. It’ll reliably do smoky burnouts – several were demonstrated to me by 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 an ideal circle of rubber on the public street as the rider slowly pivots the device on its front wheel.) Top speed is 60 mph, which compares favorably into 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 as you go along. Luke says they’re appealing to young riders, and 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, a procedure that only needs a matter of moments. The hope is the company can sell the Smartscooter for the similar cost like a premium gasoline model by removing the very expensive cells, instead offering using the GoStations using a subscription plan. The subscription takes the place in the money you’d otherwise invest in gas; you’re basically paying monthly for the energy. When the “sharing economy” is hot today – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro wants to establish itself as the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The company hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or even the subscription plans yet.)
“By 2030, there’s going to be 41 megacities, most within the developing world,” Luke says, pointing to some map dedicated to Southeast Asia. It’s a region which includes succumbed to extreme air pollution recently, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, as well as a rising middle class with money to pay. It’s also a region that will depend on two-wheeled transportation in a fashion that the Western 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 compared to a modern sedan.
Electric vehicles are often maligned for merely moving the pollution problem elsewhere as an alternative to solving it outright – you’ve reached make the electricity somehow, all things considered – but Luke and Taylor are very-ready for the question, insisting that you’re more well off burning coal outside a major city to power clean vehicles on the inside of 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 have been designed in collaboration with Panasonic, a prolific battery supplier which includes enjoyed the EV spotlight recently due to its partnership with Tesla as well as an investment in Elon Musk’s vaunted Gigafactory. These are typically no Tesla batteries, though: each dark gray brick weighs approximately the same as a bowling ball, equipped with an ergonomic bright green handle in one end. They’re designed to be lugged around by anyone and everybody, however i can imagine really small riders struggling with the heft. Luke and Panasonic EVP Yoshi Yamada seem 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 positioned in an authorized device, and they’re completely inert otherwise.
That circuitry is without question driven in part by way of a want to lock down Gogoro’s ecosystem and render the batteries useless to anyone not using 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 show a lighted cargo area and two battery docks. Riders looking for more power would stop at GoStation, grab both batteries from below the seat, and slide them into the kiosk’s spring-loaded slo-ts. The equipment identifies the rider in accordance with the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for just about any warnings or problems that have been recorded (say, a brake light has gone out or even the scooter was dropped ever since the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a whole new group of batteries, all throughout about six seconds. I’d guess that this experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and be back on the road within half a minute.
The notion 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, and you definitely won’t be capable of by using a Smartscooter. It’s built to stay within the footprint of your GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on a single charge – not too good compared to a gas model, but the problem is tempered to some degree by how effortless the battery swaps are. A dense network of swapping stations solves electric’s single biggest challenge, that is charge time.
If Luke will be the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor may be the arbiter of reality, the person 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 though they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time comes. “What you’ve seen today could not have access to been done three or four years back,” he beams, noting that everything in regards to the Smartscooter was created in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t adequate. The liquid-cooled motor is made by Gogoro. So is definitely the unique aluminum frame, that is acoustically enhanced to present the scooter a Jetsons-esque sound since it whizzes by.
Two batteries power the Smartscooter for about 60 miles between swaps.
Taylor also beams when conversing concerning the cloud that connects the GoStations to 1 another as well as to the Smartscooters. Everything learns from everything. Stations with high traffic may be set to charge batteries faster plus more frequently, while lower-use stations might hold off until late inside the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. As the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations could possibly be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. Using 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 want doesn’t have charged batteries available, but with meticulous planning and load balancing, he hopes it won’t happen more than once or twice yearly.
But therein lies the trouble: how Gogoro works – and the only way it really works – is by flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is exactly what we’re trying to find,” Luke says, noting that the company has the capital to roll in the market to a few urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $10,000” each, would be properties of Gogoro, not a 3rd party. They could go pretty much anywhere – they cart out and in, are vandalism-resistant, and screw in place – but someone still should negotiate with homeowners to have them deployed and powered. It’s an enormous, expensive task that runs an increased chance of bureaucratic inefficiency, and it needs to be repeated ad nauseam for every city where Gogoro wants its scooters. To date, it isn’t naming which cities will dexmpky62 first, but Southeast Asia is clearly priority one. Luke also generally 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 focusing on that initial launch (and even for good reason), but there’s much more about the horizon. Without offering any details, they say there are additional kinds of vehicles in development that could utilize Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically ask about cars, as it doesn’t seem to me that you could effectively power a whole-on automobile with some bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel is just not unthinkable in any way,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro as a platform that other vehicle makers can use, but leaves it open being a possibility.
And whenever the batteries aren’t good enough to use on your way anymore – about 70 percent of their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t want to recycle them. Instead, it envisions an entire “second life” for thousands of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there can even be described as a third life after that, powering lights and small appliances in extremely rural areas around the world. Right now, though, he’s just trying to get the electric assist bike launched.
Following my briefing, I looked back through my notes to completely digest the absurdity of the items Gogoro is attempting to do: launch an automobile from a company which has never done so, power it having a worldwide network of proprietary battery vending machines, launch more vehicle models, sell old batteries to Google and Facebook, wash, rinse, repeat. Reduce smog, balance power grids, save the entire world. I could certainly realize why it was an appealing substitute for the incremental grind of designing another smartphone at HTC – however i also can make an argument that they’re out of their minds.
I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also argue that you’ve got as a little crazy to consider something this big. If he’s feeling any late-stage trepidation on the magnitude from the undertaking, he certainly isn’t showing it. “Everything was approximately getting it perfect, so that we did everything from the floor up.”