Can this startup do for urban transportation what the AA battery did for our gadgets?
We've got smartphones, smart homes, smart bikes, and smart watches, so what's next? In personal mobility, it looks like smart electric scooters with swappable battery packs for transportation in densely populated cities, at least according to the team behind Gogoro.
This electric scooter startup aims to reimagine personal mobility in urban areas with their cloud-connected, mobile app-enabled two-wheeler. The Smartscooter, from Gogoro, is a "high-performance" electric vehicle which is appropriately-sized for its intended market - the densely populated cities ("megacities") - where parking space is at a premium and vehicle emissions are high.
The Smartscooter, which is set to begin rolling out later this year in selected locations, appears to be the Tesla of scooters, combining a slick streamlined aluminum monocoque chassis and a quick electric drive system (top speed 60 mph) with state-of-the-art sensor and mobile technology. Add in a hundred-mile range and the ability to swap out batteries instead of plugging in to recharge, and this little EV could change the way we think about electric vehicles in the city.
And while the announcement about the coming launch of the scooter itself is worthy of being news, the bigger story is the infrastructure that will be necessary to keep the Smartscooters on the road.
Gogoro's strategy is to install a series of battery-swapping vending machines, where customers can quickly grab charged batteries and leave depleted ones, across the city, allowing owners to have easy access to "refilling" their scooters.
These machines, dubbed GoStations, will dispense or reserve the shoebox-sized batteries (which are built with Panasonic's 18650 Li-ion cells, the same used in the Tesla Model S) using a mobile app, and pricing for the battery-swapping service will be subscription-based.
According to the company's blog, the Smartscooter is just the first of the EVs to be integrated into the so-called Gogoro Energy Network system, so we may be seeing other innovations from the company that center around swappable batteries as well:
"With the Gogoro Energy Network we’re doing for urban transportation what the AA battery did for the consumer electronics industry. The concept of easily accessible, hyper connected portable power will help turn the world’s most densely populated megacities into smart cities."
Gogoro hasn't announced pricing for either the Smartscooter or the battery-swap subscription yet, but the speculation is that the initial cost of the scooter will be low, and that the company will make the bulk of its profits from battery subscriptions.
Although it's tempting to compare this battery-swapping venture with the ill-fated Better Place, Better Place didn't build vehicles, as this company is doing, and Gogoro's bigger vision of the smart city of the future, with easily accessible portable power for a variety of applications, may prove to be a worthier goal in the long run.
Read more details about the specs of the Smartscooter at the company's website.