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TaiwanesestartupGogoroismakingnewstodayafterfouryearsoperatinginstealth,revealingsmartelectricscootercreatedforcommutersinadditiontoaridiculouslyambitiousdecidetopowerit。

Youdon’tplugthescooterin,asifyouwouldessentiallyanyotherelectricvehicleintheworldinstead,Gogorohasitsownsightssetonuser-swappablebatteriesandavastnetworkofbatteryswappingstationsthatmaycoverprobablythemostdenselypopulatedcitiesintheworld。

IfirstgotaglimpseoftheprograminaneventweeksagoinSanFrancisco,whereGogoroCEOHoraceLukeworkedtheareatogetherwiththecharm,energy,andnervesofanymanwhowasrevealinghislife’spassionthefirsttime。

LukecanbeadesignerbytradewithlongstintsatNike,Microsoft,andHTCunderhisbelt,withhisfantasticcreativerootsshowineverythingGogoroisdoing。

Thescooterjustlooksfresh,justasifLukehasn’tdesignedonebefore(whichistrue)。

Maybeit’stheprevioussmartphonedesignerinhimthat’sshowingthrough。

LukeisjoinedbynumerousformercolleaguesatHTC,includingco-founderMattTaylor。

CherWang,HTC’sbillionairefounder,countsherselfamongGogoro’sinvestors。

Thebusinesshasraisedatotalof$150million,thatisnowatrisksinceitattemptstoconvinceriders,cities,andotherpeoplewhocanlistenthatitcanpullallofthisoff。

Withahighlevel,GogoroisannouncingtheSmartscooter。

It’slikelythecoolesttwo-wheeledrunaboutyoucanbuy:it’selectric,looksunlikeanythingelseonthemarket,andincorporatesnumerouslegitimatelyuniquefeatures。

All-LEDheadlightsandtaillightswithprogrammableactionsequenceslendaKnightRideraesthetic。

Analways-onBluetoothconnectionlinksinasmartphonecompanionapp,whereyoucouldchangeanumberofvehiclesettings。

Therealkey,acircularwhitefob,iscompletelywirelessaswithacontemporarycar。

Youcanevendownloadnewsoundsforstartup,shutdown,turnsignals,andsoon;it’salittlebitofanhomageforthefounders’rootsatHTC,withinanindustrywhereringtonesarebigbusiness。

Electricscooterinherentlysoundssafeandslow,butGogoroisspendingsomuchtimetodispelthatimageupfront。

It’llreliablydosmokyburnoutsseveralweredemonstratedformepersonallythroughthecompany’stestriderandyesithits50km/h(31mph)in4。

2seconds。

(It’ssurrealgoingtoascooter,theiconofpracticalpersonaltransport,layaperfectcircleofrubberoverapublicstreetasbeingtheriderslowlypivotstheequipmentonitsfrontwheel。

)Topspeedis60mph,whichcomparesfavorablyintoaVespa946’s57mph。

Thecompany’spromotionalvideoincorporatesablackleather-cladbadassleaninghardthroughsweepingturns,superbike-style,dragginghiskneesonthepavementintheprocess。

Lukesaysthey’reappealingtoyoungriders,andyesitcertainlycomesthrough。

It’snotonlythatyoudon’tplugtheSmartscooterinyoucan’t。

Whenpowerrunslow,youvisitchargingkiosksplacedstrategicallyaroundacity(GogorocallsthemGoStations)toswapyourbatteries,anoperationthatonlyrequiresafewseconds。

AnticipationisthefactthatcompanycanselltheSmartscooterforasimilarcostasbeingapremiumgasolinemodelbytakingofftheveryexpensivecells,insteadofferingusingtheGoStationsthroughasubscriptionplan。

Thesubscriptiontakestheareafromthemoneyyou’dotherwiseinvestingas;you’rebasicallypayingmonthlyfortheenergy。

IncasethesharingeconomyishotrightnowZipCar,Citibike,soonGogorowantstoestablishitselfsincethedefactobatterysharingecosystem。

(Thebusinesshasntannouncedpricingforeitherthefoldingelectricscooterormaybethesubscriptionplansyet。

)

By2030,there’slikelytobe41megacities,almostallinsidethedevelopingworld,Lukesays,pointingtoamapconcentratedonSoutheastAsia。

It’saregionwhichhassuccumbedtoextremeairpollutionrecently,avictimofindustrialization,laxenvironmentalregulation,plusarisingmiddle-classwithmoneytoenjoy。

It’syetanotherregionthatdependsontwo-wheeledtransportationinafashionthattheWesternworldneverhas。

Scooters,whichflowwiththethousandswiththecloggedstreetsofmetropoliseslikeBangkokandHoChiMinhCity,areripetargetsforslashingsmog;manymodelsactuallybelchmorepollutantsintotheairthantheusualmodernsedan。

Electricvehiclesareoftenmalignedformerelymovingthepollutionproblemelsewhereasanalternativetosolvingitoutrightyou’vegottoproducetheelectricitysomehow,intheendbutLukeandTaylorare-preparedforthequestion,insistingthatyou’rebetteroffburningcoalbeyondatowntopowercleanvehiclesontheinsideofit。

Longterm,theynote,cleanenergyprobablybecomesviableintoday’semergingmarkets。

Openedforservice,theSmartscooterlooksalmostalien-like。

ThebatterieshavealreadybeendesignedincollaborationwithPanasonic,aprolificbatterysupplierthathasenjoyedtheEVspotlightinrecentyearsbecauseofitspartnershipwithTeslaalongwithaninvestmentinElonMusk’svauntedGigafactory。

TheyarenoTeslabatteries,though:eachdarkgraybrickweighsapproximatelythesamelikeabowlingball,builtwithanergonomicbrightgreenhandleononeend。

They’recreatedtobeluggedaroundbyanyoneandeverybody,neverthelessicanimaginereallysmallridersstrugglingwiththeheft。

LukeandPanasonicEVPYoshiYamadaaremostoftenasenthusiasticaboutthebatteriesasanythingelse,laudingtheirNFCauthentication,256-bitencryption(banksuse128-bitencryption,Lukesays),andsmartcircuitry。

Basically,they’llrefusetochargeordischargeunlessputintoacertifieddevice,andthey’recompletelyinertotherwise。

ThatcircuitryisundoubtedlydriventosomeextentbyaneedtolockdownGogoro’secosystemandrenderthebatteriesuselesstoanyonenotutilizingaGogoro-sanctioneddeviceyes,batteryDRMbutit’salsoaboutcreatingbatteryswappingexperienceseamless。

TheSmartscooter’sbulbousseatliftstorevealalightedcargoareaaswellastwobatterydocks。

RiderslookingformorepowerwouldstopatGoStation,grabbothbatteriesfromunderneaththeseat,andslidethemintothekiosk’sspring-loadedslo-ts。

Thedeviceidentifiestheriderbasedonthebatteries’uniqueIDs,greetsthem,scansforjustaboutanywarningsorproblemswhichwererecorded(say,abrakelightisoutorperhapsthescooterwasdroppedbecausethelastswap),offersserviceoptions,andejectsawholenewpairofbatteries,allthroughoutaboutsixseconds。

I’dguessanexperiencedSmartscooterridercouldprobablystopandbecomebackonthehighwayinlessthanhalfaminute。

Thenotionexploitscertainrealitiesaboutscootersthataren’tnecessarilytrueforothersortsofvehicles。

Aboveall,they’restrictlyurbanmachines:youwon’tgenerallyrideascootercross-country,andalsoyoudefinitelywon’thavethecapacitytowithaSmartscooter。

It’screatedtostayinsidethefootprintfromtheGoStationsthatsupportit。

It’llgo60milesonasinglechargenottoogoodcomparedtoagasmodel,buttheproblemistemperedtomanydegreebyhoweffortlessbatteryswapsare。

Adensenetworkofswappingstationssolveselectric’ssinglebiggestchallenge,thatischargetime。

IfLukeisdefinitelythefaceofGogoro,CTOMattTaylormaybethearbiterofreality,theguybehindthescenestranslatingLuke’sfeverdreamsintotangibleresults。

AnongoingengineeratMotorolaandMicrosoftbeforehistimeatHTC,Taylorspendsmybriefingburningthroughspecsheetafterspecsheet,datumafterdatum。

It’sasiftheyhavemathematicallydeducedthatGogoro’stimecame。

Whatyou’veseentodaycouldnothavebeendonethreeorfouryearsback,hebeams,notingthateverythingregardingtheSmartscooterwasdesignedin-housebecauseoff-the-shelfcomponentssimplyweren’tsuitable。

Theliquid-cooledmotorisproducedbyGogoro。

Sowillbetheuniquealuminumframe,whichcanbeacousticallyenhancedtogivethescooteraJetsons-esquesoundbecauseitwhizzesby。

TwobatteriespowertheSmartscooterforaround60milesbetweenswaps。

TayloralsobeamswhentalkinginregardstothecloudthatconnectstheGoStationsto1anotheraswellastheSmartscooters。

Everythinglearnsfromeverythingelse。

Stationswithhightrafficmightbesettochargebatteriesfasterandmorefrequently,whilelower-usestationsmightwaituntillateinsidethenighttocharge,relievingpressureonstrainedpowergrids。

Sincethebatteriesage,theybecomelessefficient;stationsmightbesettodispenseolderbatteriestolessaggressivedrivers。

Withallthesmartphoneapp,driverscanreservebatteriesatnearbystationsforupto10mins。

Lukesaysthere’llinevitablybetimeswherestationyoudesiredoesn’thavechargedbatteriesavailable,howeverwithcarefulplanningandloadbalancing,hehopesitwon’thappenmorethanonceoreverysixmonths。

Butthereinliesthetrouble:thewayGogoroworksandtheonlymethoditfunctionsisactuallybyfloodingcitieswithGoStations。

Onestationpermileiswhatwe’researchingfor,Lukesays,notingthatthiscompanyhasgotthecapitaltorollinthemarkettoafewurbanareasinitially。

Thekiosks,whichcostunder$10,000each,canbebelongingtoGogoro,nota3rdparty。

Theycangobasicallyanywheretheycartoutandin,arevandalism-resistant,andscrewintoplacebutsomeonestillneedstonegotiatewithpropertyownerstoobtainthemdeployedandpowered。

It’sabig,expensivetaskthatrunsahigherriskofbureaucraticinefficiency,anditneedstoberepeatedadnauseamforeverysinglecitywhereGogorowantsitsscooters。

Uptonow,itisn’tnamingwhichcitieswilldexmpky62first,butSoutheastAsiaisclearlypriorityone。

LukealsogenerallyseemstotakegreatdesireforSanFrancisco,whereourbriefingwasheld。

Hesaysthere’llbenewsondeploymentsin2015。

Companyofficialsarefocusingonthatinitiallaunch(andforgoodreason),butthere’smoreaboutthehorizon。

Withoutofferinganydetails,theyclaimthereareothersortsofvehiclesindevelopmentthatmightutilizeGogoro’sbatteriesandstations。

Ispecificallyinquireaboutcars,sinceitdoesn’toftenmethatyoucouldeffectivelypoweranentire-onautomobilebyincorporatingbowlingball-sizedbatteries。

4-wheelisnotreallyoutofthequestionbyanymeans,Lukeassuresme。

HeseemsmorereticentaboutlicensingGogoroasaplatformthatothervehiclemakerscanuse,butleavesitopenlikeapossibility。

Andwhenthebatteriesaren’tgoodenoughtouseonthehighwayanymoreabout70%withtheirnewcapacityGogorodoesn’tdesiretorecyclethem。

Instead,itenvisionsawholesecondlifefor1000sofcells,poweringdatacentersorhomes。

Lukethinkstherecanevenbedescribedasathirdlifenext,poweringlightsandsmallappliancesinextremelyruralareasoftheworld。

Forthetimebeing,though,he’sjusttryingtogettheelectricassistbikelaunched。

Aftermybriefing,IlookedbackthroughmynotestocompletelydigesttheabsurdityoftheGogoroisattemptingtodo:launchanautomobilecomingfromacompanythathasneverdoneso,poweritusingaworldwidenetworkofproprietarybatteryvendingmachines,launchafewmorevehiclemodels,selloldbatteriestoGoogleandFacebook,wash,rinse,repeat。

Reducesmog,balancepowergrids,savetheglobe。

IcancertainlyunderstandwhyitwasactuallyanappealingalternativetotheincrementalgrindofdesigningthesubsequentsmartphoneatHTChavingsaidthaticanalsomakeanargumentthatthey’refromtheirminds。

Idon’tthinkLukewoulddisagree,buthe’dalsoreasonthatyou’vegottobecomelittlecrazytouseonsomethingthisbig。

Ifhe’sfeelinganylate-stagetrepidationacrossthemagnitudeofyourundertaking,hecertainlyisn’tshowingit。