Electric two-wheelers seem to be the weapon of choice for big-thinking entrepreneurs looking to keep urban centers of the future on the move. One major design focus, whether they be folded up and thrown in the car or squeezed inside your backpack, has been maximizing the distance the vehicles can travel before they need plugging in for a recharge. But if the plans of Taiwanese firm Gogoro do materialize, then the range of these bikes and scooters may not matter so much after all. The company rolled up to this week's CES to showcase its Smartscooter, which it says will one day move around smart cities swapping out batteries at vending machines as it runs out of juice.
The Gogoro Smartscooter cannot be recharged via an outlet. Its battery, which uses Panasonic's 18650-size automotive-grade lithium-ion energy cells, near field communication (NFC) and 256-bit encryption, forms part of a modular battery exchange network the company hopes will span the megacities of tomorrow. The so-called GoStations will be built at strategic locations around urban centers, allowing owners to swing by and replace their depleted batteries in a six-second swap.
The company isn't exactly cutting corners on the design of the scooter either. With a frame crafted from racing grade aluminum, the 94 kg (207 lb) Gogoro has an 8.58 hp electric motor that drives the scooter to a claimed top speed of 95 km/h (60 mph) with acceleration from 0 to 50 km/h (31 mph) in 4.2 seconds. Each battery swap should allow 100 km (60 mi) of travel at an average speed of 40 km/h (25 mph).
The scooter has a total of 30 sensors onboard, including gravity, shock and ambient light sensors, synchronizing data across the app, battery, the GoStations, the wider network and the scooter itself. Through a paired iOS or Android device, riders can then access useful information such as where the nearest GoStation might be or details on their ride like top speed and range. The Gogoro app also allows customization of functions like the throttle control and regenerative braking, enabling owners to further optimize its energy usage.
”Gogoro is more than a startup," says Gogoro co-founder and CEO Horace Luke. "This is the start of an industry. Our products and business model will impact a variety of consumer areas to create a metropolitan ecosystem with better connectivity, easier access to energy, and a more enjoyable urban living experience.”
Weaving through the inevitable bureaucratic minefields to actually install these Gogoro Energy Networks in cities (and then hope that the market responds), will be no easy task. But it should be said that the decision to go down this road wasn't taken on a whim. In 2011, Luke, a former Chief Innovation Officer at HTC, teamed up with his co-founder Matt Taylor to form Gogoro. The pair have spent the three years since working on a big-picture strategy to change the way energy is used in densely populated cities, and have attracted US$150 million in funding along the way.
Where in the world these smart, zero-emission vehicles might first hit the ground isn't entirely clear yet, but the streets of South East Asia already swarmed with scooters may be just the kind of place Gogoro has in mind.
It plans to begin an initial rollout in 2015.
Source: GogoroView gallery - 21 images