Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after 4 years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter designed for commuters in addition to a ridiculously ambitious intend to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, like you would essentially almost every other electric vehicle in the world – instead, Gogoro has its own sights set on user-swappable batteries along with a vast network of battery swapping stations that can cover many of the most densely populated cities on the planet.
I first got a peek at the device at an event weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the space with all the charm, energy, and nerves of a man who was revealing his life’s passion the very first time. Luke is 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 been doing. 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 numerous former colleagues at HTC, including co-founder Matt Taylor. Cher Wang, HTC’s billionaire founder, counts herself among Gogoro’s investors. The organization has raised an overall of $150 million, which happens to be now on the line since it attempts to convince riders, cities, and someone else that will listen that it could pull this off.
At 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 everything else in the marketplace, 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 in to a smartphone companion app, where one can change a number of vehicle settings. The true secret, a circular white fob, is entirely wireless as with a modern day car. You may even download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and so on; it’s a bit of an homage for the founders’ roots at HTC, inside 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 for me personally from the company’s test rider – plus it hits 50 km/h (31 mph) in 4.2 seconds. (It’s surreal seeing a scooter, the icon of practical personal transport, lay the perfect circle of rubber on a public street as being 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 includes 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 appealing to young riders, and yes it 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 town (Gogoro calls them GoStations) to swap your batteries, an activity that only has a few seconds. Anticipation would be that the company can sell the Smartscooter for the similar cost being a premium gasoline model by taking off the very expensive cells, instead offering use of the GoStations using a subscription plan. The subscription takes the area of your money you’d otherwise dedicate to gas; you’re basically paying monthly for the energy. If the “sharing economy” is hot at the moment – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro desires to establish itself because the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The organization hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or perhaps the subscription plans yet.)
“By 2030, there’s likely to be 41 megacities, almost all inside the developing world,” Luke says, pointing into a map centered on Southeast Asia. It’s a region which includes succumbed to extreme air pollution in recent years, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, plus a rising middle class with money to enjoy. It’s additionally a region that depends on two-wheeled transportation in ways that the Western world never has. Scooters, which flow through 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 to the air when compared to a modern sedan.
Electric vehicles are usually maligned for merely moving the pollution problem elsewhere as an alternative to solving it outright – you’ve reached produce the electricity somehow, all things considered – but Luke and Taylor are very-prepared for the question, insisting that you’re more well off burning coal beyond a major city to power clean vehicles 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 happen to be designed together with Panasonic, a prolific battery supplier which has enjoyed the EV spotlight in recent years 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 being a bowling ball, built with an ergonomic bright green handle on a single end. They’re built 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 appear to be as interested in the batteries as whatever 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 without a doubt 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 making the battery swapping experience seamless. The Smartscooter’s bulbous seat lifts to disclose a lighted cargo area as well as two battery docks. Riders looking for 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 appliance identifies the rider in accordance with the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for virtually any warnings or problems that were recorded (say, a brake light is out or perhaps the scooter was dropped since the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a brand new pair of batteries, all in the course of about six seconds. I’d guess that the experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and become back on the streets in less than 30 seconds.
The reasoning exploits certain realities about scooters that aren’t necessarily true for other kinds of vehicles. Most significantly, they’re strictly urban machines: you won’t generally ride a scooter cross-country, and you definitely won’t be capable of having a Smartscooter. It’s built to stay inside the footprint from the GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on one charge – not very good compared to a gas model, but the catch is tempered for some degree by how effortless battery swaps are. A dense network of swapping stations solves electric’s single biggest challenge, which is charge time.
If Luke is definitely the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor is definitely the arbiter of reality, the person behind the curtain 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 as though they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time came. “What you’ve seen today could not have been done three or four years back,” he beams, noting that everything in regards to the Smartscooter was developed in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t sufficient. The liquid-cooled motor is produced by Gogoro. So will be the unique aluminum frame, which happens to be acoustically enhanced to present the scooter a Jetsons-esque sound since it whizzes by.
Two batteries power the Smartscooter for approximately 60 miles between swaps.
Taylor also beams when talking regarding the cloud that connects the GoStations to just one another as well as the Smartscooters. Everything learns from everything. Stations with good traffic could possibly be set to charge batteries faster and much more frequently, while lower-use stations might wait until late inside the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. Since the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations may be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. Together with the smartphone app, drivers can reserve batteries at nearby stations for approximately ten minutes. Luke says there’ll inevitably be times in which the station you need doesn’t have charged batteries available, however with careful planning and load balancing, he hopes it won’t happen more than once or every six months.
But therein lies the situation: how Gogoro works – and the only method it works – is simply by flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is exactly what we’re looking for,” Luke says, noting the company has the capital to roll over to 1 or 2 urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $ten thousand” each, could be owned by Gogoro, not a third party. They are able to go pretty much anywhere – they cart out and in, are vandalism-resistant, and screw in place – but someone still should negotiate with property owners to get 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 each city where Gogoro wants its scooters. Thus far, it isn’t naming which cities will dexmpky62 first, but Southeast Asia is clearly priority one. Luke also appears 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 centering on that initial launch (and even for good reason), but there’s more about the horizon. Without offering any details, they are saying there are other forms of vehicles in development that might make use of Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically enquire about cars, since it doesn’t seem to me that one could effectively power a whole-on automobile with just a few bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel is just not out of the question at all,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro as a platform that other vehicle makers can use, but leaves it open like a possibility.
And whenever the batteries aren’t sufficiently good to use on the road anymore – about 70 percent with their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t desire to recycle them. Instead, it envisions a whole “second life” for a huge number of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there can even be described as a third life following that, powering lights and small appliances in extremely rural areas of the world. Right now, though, he’s just hoping to get the electric assist bike launched.
After my briefing, I looked back through my notes to totally digest the absurdity of the items Gogoro is attempting to complete: launch an automobile from the company that has 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 could certainly discover why it was actually an attractive substitute for the incremental grind of designing the subsequent smartphone at HTC – however i may also make an argument that they’re from their minds.
I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also believe that you’ve got as a little crazy to battle something this big. If he’s feeling any late-stage trepidation within the magnitude of the undertaking, he certainly isn’t showing it. “Everything was about getting it perfect, so we did anything from the soil up.”