I was really, really hoping to ignore this
A few years ago, smart (no caps, please) announced it would offer an electric scooter by 2014. Uh, that didn’t happen. However, another rather similar concept electric scooter recently debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The name of the company is Gogoro, and so far its most noteworthy achievement seems to have been raising $150 million in venture capital without anyone having a clue what the company was up to.
The Gogoro Smartscooter kind of sounds like a cell phone on wheels (many of the company’s engineers used to work for phone maker HTC), except instead of plugging it in you obtain fresh batteries from strategically-placed kiosks. The batteries, which the company says are very similar to the ones in a Tesla Model S, in fact cannot be recharged by users.
One of the biggest disadvantages of plug-in electric vehicles is the lengthy recharge time. At 110 volts, a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt will be fully charged in 12 hours. Even the so-called quick chargers require half an hour to bring vehicle batteries up to an 80% charge.
Therefore, easily-swappable batteries have considerable appeal.
However, someone tried that. They went bankrupt.
The linked Techcrunch article makes it sound like the company believes it will be able to plop their kiosks down anywhere they please. Stores and fast-food joints don’t host those Redbox and CoinStar machines out of the goodness of their hearts; having them is being made worth their while, somehow.
In fact, it sounds like Gogoro hasn’t really given a lot of thought to the nuts and bolts of how the battery subscription thing is going to work. How long will charging take? What if your scooter’s battery is dead, but there are no charged batteries nearby? Those batteries weigh 20 lbs each… how big a vehicle are they going to need to lug them around, and maintain the kiosks?
Of course, no MSRP or on-sale date for the scooter has been announced. Hint: it’s unlikely to be cheap.
More importantly, it’s unlikely to be useful. The battery breakthrough that will allow an electric vehicle to go as far on a charge as one with an internal-combustion engine on a tank of gas hasn’t happened yet. There are lots of companies working on such things, and the one that figures it out will make ungodly amounts of money when they put it on sale.
It’s not clear if there’s a running prototype, but the company nevertheless claims a 60-mph top speed and 100-mile range on a full charge. Believe it when you see it.
Lost in the frenzy over this and other electric scooter concepts is the fact that there are scooters available RIGHT NOW that really will go 60 mph, get almost 100 mpg and can be bought for a few thousand dollars. Best of all, they don’t need to be plugged into anything.