A new generation of smart scooters is appearing in Taiwan, India and China, created by tech entrepreneurs with some serious financing behind them.
We presented the Gogoro a while ago (http://cleanrider.com/gogoro-better-place-electric-scooters/). Since then, Gogoro started a test program in the city of Taipei and announced the price of its scooter: $4,100, which includes two years of battery-swapping service. It is rather on the expensive side, in a country where a good 125-cc gas scooter can be purchased for less than $2,500 and the cheapest gas scooters can be found at less than $500. But the project is well financed, and is going ahead.
In Chennai, India, Ather Energy is reimagining the scooter with the S340 model. The company was started by two young tech entrepreneurs, and received $1 million in financing from the founders of Indian online shopping giant Flipkart. Recently, it received an additional $12 million in funding from Tiger Global, the New York-based hedge fund. Ather developed the S340 from the ground up, and clearly positioned it as a premium scooter. It designed all the parts of the S340, except for the motor, the BMS and the battery cells. Through its research, Ather had found out that the early users of electric scooters in India were all disappointed by the quality and performance of their machines. For example, 100,000 electric scooters (with lead-acid batteries) were sold in India in 2009, and only 20,000 in 2014. So the goal was to develop a scooter that out-performs a 100-cc gas scooter.
The S340 has a light-weight aluminum chassis, a top speed of 47 mph (75 km/h) and goes from 0 to 37 mph (60 km/h) in 11 seconds. The 33 lbs. (15 kg) lithium-ion battery can be recharged to 90% in 1 hour, and provides a range of 31 to 62 miles (50 to 100 km). The dashboard is an Android tablet, and sensors monitor bike parameters and process data in the cloud, each scooter having a SIM card for data communication. Prototypes are being tested right now, customer test should start in October and first production models should be available in 2016, at a price of INR85,000, or $1,335.
In China, another startup, Niu (buffalo in Chinese) is working on another premium, internet connected electric scooter. Li Yinan, a former Chief Technology Officer at Baidu, the Chinese internet company, invested $3 million of his own money in this project, and completed a round of financing that raised $50 million in total.
The Niu N1 will come in two versions, one with a range of 62 miles (100 km) for CNY4,999 ($805), and one with a range of 50 miles (80 km) for CNY3,999 ($644). Both come with removable Panasonic lithium-ion batteries, the higher version having a 1.560 kWh capacity for a weight of 22 lbs. (10 kg). Bosch is supplying the hub motor. Top speed is 28 mph (45 km/h).
The N1 went on sales on June 15 on a crowdfunding site, and reached over CNY50 million ($8.055 million), a record in China. The scooters are supposed to be delivered within 30 days.
Asia is of course teeming with tens of millions of gas scooters, and if there is one region in the world where electric scooters can be manufactured in the millions some day, this is it. With their well funded projects, dynamic tech entrepreneurs, low labor costs and huge economies of scale potential, these new Asian smart scooters are a good bet to, sooner or later, invade Europe and the USA. And we can’t wait…