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Well-Heeled Gogoro Unveils Plan to Cover Cities With Scooters and Battery-Swapping Kiosks

But is it the next Tesla or the next Segway?


Gogoro, the startup founded by former HTC executive Horace Luke, is finally ready to show off what it has spent the past several years working on.

The company aims to offer a municipal system for swappable batteries that can power a range of devices — starting first with an electric scooter that the company plans to offer for sale later this year.

 Gogoro CEO Horace Luke
Gogoro CEO Horace Luke

Gogoro also plans to put in place dense networks of battery-swapping stations — as many as one per square mile — in several megacities, starting with at least one unnamed city in 2015. Panasonic developed the battery technology that Gogoro is using and is a partner on the effort. The idea is that its Smartscooter could pull up to an ATM-sized station, get a new battery and be back up and running in as few as six seconds.

“We see this as a great opportunity for us to change and revolutionize electric vehicles,” Luke said in an interview ahead of this week’s product debut at CES in Las Vegas.

There is no question the technology is both cool and intriguing. But only time will tell if Luke has the next Tesla on his hands or a repeat of the ill-fated Segway.

Gogoro has raised a lot of money — approaching $150 million — but its plans require it to have significant scale.

Luke says that the company is aiming the scooters at 18- to 28-year-olds who know all about Tesla and like the idea of an electric vehicle but can’t afford a four-wheeled model. Luke isn’t saying how much Gogoro will charge for its scooters, but says the idea is to be in the same ballpark as other two-wheeled vehicles. Gogoro buyers would also pay an unspecified monthly subscription fee for unlimited battery swaps.

And scooters are just the beginning, Luke said, with the eventual idea that a citywide network of charging stations could power other devices — perhaps even a four-wheeled vehicle someday.

While he isn’t saying which city will get its scooters and charging network first, Luke said the company will focus on places that already have a scooter culture, a list that would include places in Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as U.S. cities like San Francisco. The scooters are capable of going about 60 miles between charges, assuming one maximizes for range, and can also reach a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

Gogoro is not alone in pursuing electric scooters. Scoot Networks is taking more of a Zipcar-style approach, placing the scooters themselves in places around cities, starting with a beta currently under way in San Francisco.

Luke said Gogoro considered a rental model, but wanted to offer the benefits of ownership, noting that Gogoro’s scooters can be customized with different-colored dashboards and a unique sound when the keyless fob is pressed. Even the engine settings can be customized, with many of the tweaks controllable via a mobile phone app. The app can also be used to see diagnostics and find the nearest battery station.

Part of the goal was to make vehicles more like consumer electronics, Luke said.

“Think about it as a smartphone with wheels,” Luke said. “If you have an orange outfit, it can actually make the entire display orange.”

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