Here comes the ‘smartscooter’

By: | Published: August 30, 2015 12:05 AM

Taipei-based Gogoro’s sleek and futuristic electric two-wheeler is being touted as the world’s first and only one of its breed

GOGORO REALLY captured the world’s imagination when it unveiled its electric scooter at the CES show in January this year. Here was an electric vehicle—touted as the world’s first and only ‘smartscooter’—that not only looked cool but never needed charging either.

By using a swappable battery technology, users can simply ride up to a Gogoro power station and swap the bike’s two batteries for fresh ones. The brains behind this aeronautically designed speed demon have thought of everything—modular batteries so you can swap out rather than waiting to charge and smart controls to either be more efficient or add that bit of extra torque depending on your mood.

From its drivetrain to its dashboard, the smartscooter exemplifies precision and perfection. In order to deliver agility and power, the makers at Gogoro chose to recreate the entire riding experience so as to put together a smartscooter that boasts a unique powertrain, chassis, suspension and electronics, offering a uniquely powerful yet smart ride to those who find the need for speed.

Gogoro shipped its first run of 400 pre-ordered scooters to customers in Taipei in the last week of July. The company, which launched early this year, has also installed 65 of its battery stations around Taipei for customers.

Although the smartscooter itself is a key part of what will eventually be the Gogoro experience, the heart of the vision is the swappable battery technology that will power them.

The idea is users will be able to ride up to battery stations and simply swap their spent batteries for freshly charged ones. Swapping batteries takes just six seconds, with the system automatically sensing you’ve inserted the old batteries into the charging station and popping out two fresh ones for you to use.

The vehicle’s associated smartphone app (iOS and Android) gives the rider the ability to check for nearby battery stations, view driving statistics, personalise the dashboard colours and sound effects and run diagnostics.

The scooter itself can do 0 to 31 mph in 4.2 seconds, and reach a top speed of 60 mph. They have two removable, portable batteries that provide a range of up to 60 miles. Gogoro previously said prices would start at $4,100 for a basic version, and $5,100 for a higher-performance model. This is reportedly at the high end of the Taiwanese scooter market.

The speed of battery swapping makes it seem like an attractive idea, but so far no company has managed to make it work. Israel’s BetterPlace offered a battery-swapping service for electric cars, but couldn’t stay in business. Tesla Motors demonstrated battery swapping, but seemed to lose interest after California changed rules governing its zero-emission vehicle credits and removed financial incentives for the technology. It currently operates only one swapping station in the American state.

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