By Charlie Gallagher
Discussions about energy often get caught up in the current events – solar subsidies, OPEC, and oil spills – but how about the future? Look to Gogoro: they’ve made an electric scooter that can excite consumers and drastically reduce emissions simultaneously, by helping reshape how energy is used in ultra-dense urban cities.
Gogoro makes a high-tech, battery-powered, sleek new scooter called the Smartscooter. It can achieve a top speed of 60 mph and a maximum range of 100 km (62 mi). But the truly inspiring feat is not the scooter but the battery network that powers it. Gogoro relies on its GoStations – strategically-placed battery stations where riders can swap out their two milk jug-sized batteries for fresh ones when they run out of juice. The idea behind this network is that by distributing – or sharing – energy across the city, riders can get where they need to go without worrying about having to head back home for an hours-long recharge (‘range anxiety’). Instead, users simply remove the two batteries, drop them in the charging station (which greets you by name), and two fresh ones automatically pop out. The whole process takes six seconds.
Beyond the battery network is clever smartphone integration with a real-time feedback experience. The scooter comes with an app that can show battery levels, run diagnostics, tell you how to improve your riding experience, and even alert you of malfunctions (and automatically schedule you for servicing). In the app you can also set your preferences to, say, maximize your range or up the torque for quick acceleration. Further, the app can tell you where you parked if you forget and show a map of battery stations if you need fresh batteries.
Gogoro was started by a former member at HTC, a maker of smartphones, and is partnering with Panasonic, the Japanese electronics giant behind Tesla’s PowerWall batteries and operator of the legendary ‘GigaFactory’ mega-plant.
The three models’ prices range from $2,500 to $3,000, and CEO Horace Luke is hopeful that these scooters can rapidly gain market share in Europe’s and Asia’s dense cities. They currently operate in Taipei, where they have sold over 1,000 scooters, and they are launching in Amsterdam this spring.
But what does the future hold for Gogoro? “The greatest challenge of our time is determining how we manage, distribute and experience energy in smarter ways,” said Luke. While Gogoro is exciting, sexy, and practical (in theory), the success of the company relies on scale; much like Uber, the sharing economy only works when everyone uses it. Skeptics point out that since riders don’t own their batteries and can’t charge at home, the company will be a flop. But the potential for energy sharing in dense cities is huge: for instance, Gogoro is just one part of a wider initiative called Amsterdam Smart City – a coalition of government bodies and companies – which seeks to make Amsterdam a model for urban efficiency.
The network of batteries can power more than just scooters. Strategically-placed battery stations can provide mobile energy for servers, construction sites, you name it. “Imagine what the AA battery did for the consumer electronic industry way back when. We think Gogoro batteries – smart batteries – would enable a wide industry of unimaginable innovation to happen,” remarks Luke.
Sources: The Verge, Gizmag, and Gogoro