Gogoro unveiled it’s innovative smartscooter which features cutting edge battery technology & sophisticated charging station infrastructure at the CES 2015 show in Las Vegas.
The lithium-ion batteries have a more than 60 mile range—similar to what petrol scooter are capable of. When the rider is ready to swap the two batteries in the scooter, she is routed the nearest charging station through the Gogoro app where the charging station pops out two fresh batteries that are tailored to her driving style–if the rider is prone to going fast, they’ll probably need a stronger, fresher battery.
The lithium-ion batteries were developed in partnership with Panasonic using the Japanese company’s cylindrical 18650-size batteries–the same used inside Tesla’s Model S. The batteries have 25 sensors in them and report back to the cloud every 10 minutes about their status. And the battery talks to the vehicle through near field communication (NFC) technology and to your phone through Bluetooth.
All the Gogoro stations will be synced up to determine which station has enough batteries charged to feed demand at particular locations. It’ll learn the behavior of regular users and be able to manage peak energy demands to better fit in with a city’s electricity demand. Batteries will spend their time charging in hours when energy isn’t in such high demand. Blackouts are a frequent issue in some big cities as energy demands spike more and more at certain times with rapid population growth. This is an attempt to offset those peaks.
“As population grows in megacities, electricity demand is only going to increase at that peak,” said Luke. “There’s the potential of charging surplus energy at night and have them ready for the day. … Imagine a world where your vehicle is so connected to the grid that it knows who, when and how you change batteries. You can design a grid that follows that pattern dynamically throughout the day and adjust energy levels to the amount of vehicles on the road.”
The swappable battery idea may bring to some people’s minds the disastrous cleantech failure that was Israel-based electric vehicle startup Better Place, which received nearly a billion in investment. But instead of the big hulking battery swaps that Better Place had to do with its four-wheel cars with the use of robots, you simply swap out two batteries into the Gogoro scooter using your own two hands. This makes installing the charging stations cheaper. To deploy the Gogoro stations, the company said it’ll cost $10,000–much lower cost than Better Place’s $500,000 charging stations.
Of course, the entire model behind Gogoro could fall apart if it never manages to get cities on board to invest and install this infrastructure. Gogoro thinks it’ll need one station per mile in cities to build the infrastructure up enough for the Gogoro system to work. Gogoro is already in talks with several big cities around building this battery infrastructure–including at least one US city. Even though the target is young people in booming urban areas of the developing world, Gogoro plans to have some presence in Europe and the US. Gogoro said we should be seeing rollout plans around building out this charging infrastructure later this year.
No pricetag has been mentioned yet for the scooter, but the model will be centered around leasing the battery. People will buy the vehicle and get access to the charging station network. “We want to make sure the vehicle is accessible,” said Luke. “In EVs today, the battery makes up 40 percent of building costs. Batteries are that expensive. Removing that and the charging circuit reduces the cost of the vehicle. Our model is more of a mobile phone business plan.”
Before Gogoro, Luke had spent his time as the chief innovation officer at Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC. But with the saturation of the smartphone market as it’s matured, it’s hard to grow in that space and major innovations soon dry up. “There’s so much money in the phone business that it’s practically like running the Olympics,” said Gogoro cofounder and CTO Matt Taylor, who followed Luke from executive positions at Microsoft and HTC to Gogoro. “You have the best teams at Motorola and Apple working on them. It’s hard to sit back and take a breath and really move things forward.”
Scooters seemed like the perfect place to move things forward—the industry hasn’t moved very far in the past 20 years. There are roughly 200 million scooters worldwide. Many people in the emerging megacities are coming into the middle class and desire a means to get around, but the transportation infrastructure isn’t keeping pace with city growth.
The long-term vision behind Gogoro is all around the battery. Gogoro hopes others will build products on top of the modular battery technology. They’re already talking about how the batteries a few years down the road could be used to serve as backup in server farms and commercial buildings.
“This company is not just about shipping vehicles but about starting a new industry and getting everybody rallied around smart energy,” exclaimed Luke. “We call it the smart scooter, not just the electric scooter. It’s connected, receiving, learning.”
The scooter can do a top speed of 60 Mph and can reach 0-30 in 4.2 seconds.