Is this the Tesla of Scooters?
Horace Luke, Taiwan’s Elon Musk?
If you have visited Taipei, you will not have failed to notice the incessant drone of scooter engines, which can reach almost deafening proportions during the morning rush hour around Taiwan’s capital. It is not surprising that the island nation’s 23 million citizens own a staggering 13.6 million scooters, which is the highest per capita ownership in the world, and use them extensively during their daily commute to beat traffic jams.
In a city that is infamous for its chocking traffic, the humble scooter has become the indispensable mode of transportation for Taiwan’s public, from school kids to grandparents, who use them to zip in and out of the traffic, avoiding jams and getting to their destination with relative ease.
Historically, these scooters were almost all petrol-powered, but of late there has been a revolution in the Taiwanese world of scooters, thanks to a relatively low-tech way of solving the lack of charging stations or points, and the length of time it took to charge the battery, often overnight to get a full charge. Our old foe ‘range-anxiety’ was stopping the public from switching from the noisy petrol-powered version to cleaner, quieter electric-powered versions. That was until a new player in the market called Gogoro, founded by Horace Luke Matt Taylor, who has resolved the range anxiety issue with a six-second charge. No, the company didn’t invent a new battery system; all it did was simply rethink the one-battery, one-bike system. With the Gogoro system, instead of riders having to endure what must have seemed like a never-ending wait for their battery to attain full charge, they now can simply navigate to an unmanned swap station and change a flat battery for a fully charged one.
Changing a battery is as simple as plug and play.
In a way, the Gogoro scooter is what you would get if you powered a Vespa with an iPhone. The scooter has a claimed range of 100 kilometres at a rather pedestrian 45 kph, but can reach 95 kph and all in a time under 4.2 seconds. To date, there are 220 swap stations across the country, although these are all in the larger cities, but in Taipei there are already more swap stations than there are petrol kiosks. You don’t even have to worry if your battery starts to go flat in an unfamiliar part of town as a smart phone app will tell you how much juice you have left and then guide you to the nearest swap station. The same app will also tell you if your vehicle has any problems and also starts the vehicle for you.
The ability to recharge your battery has long been a roadblock to the acceptance of electric vehicles but this new approach is being vaunted as a potential game changer; well, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Transport, that is. The ministry reported a doubling of electric scooter registrations from 5,000 in 2014 to 11,000 in 2015, and by the end of August of 2016, already 9,225. Whilst we have to remind you that this is still a small percentage out of the almost 700,000 scooters bought every year in Taiwan, it is why Gogoro is being dubbed the Tesla of Scooters.
Don’t think that you will have to go to Taiwan to see one either; the company is very bullish about spreading the new concept around the globe and is already in the process of installing the infrastructure in Amsterdam. With a price of US$2679 to US$3288, they are currently priced at the top end of the scooter price range, but for silent smooth ride, it could be worth it.