Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after four years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter made for commuters in addition to a ridiculously ambitious decide to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, like you would essentially any other electric vehicle on earth – instead, Gogoro has its sights set on user-swappable batteries as well as a vast network of battery swapping stations that can cover many of the most densely populated cities worldwide.
I first got a peek at the device at an event weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the room together with the charm, energy, and nerves of your man who was revealing his life’s passion initially. Luke is actually a designer by trade with long stints at Nike, Microsoft, and HTC under his belt, with his fantastic creative roots show in everything Gogoro is doing. The scooter just looks fresh, like Luke hasn’t designed one before (that is 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 company has raised an overall total of $150 million, that is now on the line as it attempts to convince riders, cities, and anybody else who can listen that it can pull this off.
In a top level, Gogoro is announcing the Smartscooter. It’s most likely the coolest two-wheeled runabout you can buy: it’s electric, looks unlike other things in the marketplace, and incorporates a number 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 many different vehicle settings. The real key, a circular white fob, is completely wireless such as a modern day car. You can also download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and the like; it’s some an homage towards the founders’ roots at HTC, in an industry where ringtones are big business.
“Electric scooter” inherently sounds safe and slow, but Gogoro is making an effort to dispel that image upfront. It’ll reliably do smoky burnouts – several were demonstrated for me by the company’s test rider – and it also 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 because the rider slowly pivots the device on its front wheel.) Top speed is 60 mph, which compares favorably to some Vespa 946’s 57 mph. The company’s promotional video includes a black leather-clad badass leaning hard through sweeping turns, superbike-style, dragging his knees on the pavement in the process. Luke says they’re appealing to young riders, and it also certainly comes through.
It’s not only that you don’t plug the Smartscooter in – you can’t. When power runs low, you visit charging kiosks placed strategically around a major city (Gogoro calls them GoStations) to swap your batteries, a process that only requires a matter of moments. The hope is that the company can sell the Smartscooter for the very same cost being a premium gasoline model by taking off the very expensive cells, instead offering using the GoStations via a subscription plan. The subscription takes the spot of the money you’d otherwise pay for gas; you’re basically paying monthly for the energy. If the “sharing economy” is hot right now – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro wishes to establish itself since the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The business hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or maybe the subscription plans yet.)
“By 2030, there’s will be 41 megacities, almost all in the developing world,” Luke says, pointing to a map concentrated on Southeast Asia. It’s a region containing succumbed to extreme air pollution recently, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, along with a rising middle-class with money to spend. It’s another region that depends on two-wheeled transportation in ways that the Civilized world never has. Scooters, which flow by 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 into the air than the usual modern sedan.
Electric vehicles are often maligned for merely moving the pollution problem elsewhere as an alternative to solving it outright – you’ve reached produce the electricity somehow, after all – but Luke and Taylor are-prepared for the question, insisting that you’re happier burning coal away from a city to power clean vehicles on the 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 have been designed together with Panasonic, a prolific battery supplier containing enjoyed the EV spotlight in recent years as a result of its partnership with Tesla plus an investment in Elon Musk’s vaunted Gigafactory. These are typically no Tesla batteries, though: each dark gray brick weighs about the same like a bowling ball, designed with an ergonomic bright green handle using one end. They’re made to be lugged around by anyone and everybody, having said that i can imagine really small riders battling with the heft. Luke and Panasonic EVP Yoshi Yamada are most often as interested in the batteries as everything 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 a certified device, and they’re completely inert otherwise.
That circuitry is certainly driven to some extent from a need 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 making battery swapping experience seamless. The Smartscooter’s bulbous seat lifts to show a lighted cargo area and 2 battery docks. Riders needing more power would stop at GoStation, grab both batteries from beneath the seat, and slide them in to the kiosk’s spring-loaded slo-ts. The machine identifies the rider depending on the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for virtually any warnings or problems that have been recorded (say, a brake light has gone out or perhaps the scooter was dropped because the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a whole new set of batteries, all throughout about six seconds. I’d guess that the experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and also be back on the highway in less than half a minute.
The idea exploits certain realities about scooters that aren’t necessarily true for other kinds of vehicles. Most importantly, they’re strictly urban machines: you won’t generally ride a scooter cross-country, so you definitely won’t have the ability to having a Smartscooter. It’s created to stay inside of the footprint from the GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on one charge – not too good in comparison 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 is definitely the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor will be the arbiter of reality, the guy behind the scenes 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 like they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time has arrived. “What you’ve seen today could not have been done 3 or 4 in the past,” he beams, noting that everything in regards to the Smartscooter was developed in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t good enough. The liquid-cooled motor is created by Gogoro. So will be the unique aluminum frame, which is acoustically enhanced to provide 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 about the cloud that connects the GoStations to a single another and also to the Smartscooters. Everything learns from everything else. Stations with high traffic might be set to charge batteries faster and much more frequently, while lower-use stations might hold off until late inside the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. Because the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations may be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. Using the smartphone app, drivers can reserve batteries at nearby stations for as much as 10 minutes. Luke says there’ll inevitably be times the location where the station you would like doesn’t have charged batteries available, although 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 in which Gogoro works – and the only method it works – is as simple as flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is exactly what we’re searching for,” Luke says, noting the company offers the capital to roll over to one or two urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $10,000” each, will be belonging to Gogoro, not a third party. They are able to go just about anywhere – they cart out and in, are vandalism-resistant, and screw in place – but someone still must negotiate with homeowners to have them deployed and powered. It’s a tremendous, expensive task that runs a very high probability 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 curiosity about 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 more about the horizon. Without offering any details, they say there are many kinds of vehicles in development that could use Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically inquire about cars, because it doesn’t manage to me that one could effectively power an entire-on automobile with a few bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel is not unthinkable in any way,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro like a platform that other vehicle makers could use, but leaves it open as being a possibility.
So when the batteries aren’t good enough to use on the road anymore – about 70 % in their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t would like to recycle them. Instead, it envisions a whole “second life” for thousands of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there can even be a third life afterward, 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 fully digest the absurdity of the items Gogoro is attempting to complete: launch a car from your company which 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 entire world. I could certainly see why it had been an appealing substitute for the incremental grind of designing the subsequent smartphone at HTC – having said that i could also make an argument that they’re from their minds.
I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also reason that you’ve got to be a little crazy to use on 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 about getting it perfect, therefore we did anything from the earth up.”