Gogoro: a “Better Place” for electric scooters?

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At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Gogoro introduced the electric Smartscooter and its Energy Network battery swapping network. Can it be more successful than the failed “Better Place” project for electric cars?

The scooter itself is rather stylish, and has impressive performances: top speed is 59mph (95km/h), with 0 to 31mph (50km/h) in 4.2 seconds, thanks to a liquid-cooled motor with 8.58hp (6.4kW) and 25Nm of torque. Two removable Panasonic lithium batteries provide a range of 62 miles (100km). Aluminum frame and wheels allow for a total weight of only 207lbs (94kg). Sensors collect data that is being stored in the cloud via a smartphone app which also allows to control some of the scooter’s settings.

Price is unknown, and will not include the batteries; instead, users will have to subscribe to the Gogoro Energy Network and swap the empty batteries at a Gogoro GoStation. It will not be possible to plug-in to recharge, the batteries can only be swapped.

Gogoro, a Taiwanese startup, was created by former mobile phone industry executives and it probably explains the concept of subscription for the batteries. Renault used the cell phone analogy to try to explain its battery rental system for the Zoé electric car. So far sales of the Zoé have been a disappointment and Renault has recently started to sell the car with the battery included.

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The example of the cell phone was also used by Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, for its battery-swapping network for electric cars. Better Place spent almost $1 billion in funding to develop such a network in Israel, based on the Renault Fluence ZE. Alas, the firm went bankrupt after building just a few swapping stations and selling only a few dozen cars.

Of course it does not mean that the Gogoro project will fail. It is less expensive to cover a city with battery-swapping stations than a whole country. Plus, the cost of a GoStation is estimated at $10,000, when a Better Place station cost $500,000.

The target market for the Gogoro project is also very different from early electric car users; the millennial generation is more open to the concept of subscription versus ownership. It will all come down to cost. The Smartscooter seems to be a very expensive scooter, and the project might benefit from a more affordable scooter.

Gogoro has already access to $150 million in financing, so it is likely that we will soon see a trial project in one of the Asian mega-city. It will be interesting to follow this bold concept, and we hope Gogoro can make it work!

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