No, this is not a review of some obscure Asian kaiju movie set in Germany. Gogoro is, in fact, a manufacturer of electric motorscooters the company calls “smart scooters.” (More on the “smart” part in a bit.) Currently only available for sale in Taiwan—where over 10,000 smart scooters have been sold—the company is now moving into the German capital city via an exclusive deal with newly-established scooter rental service Coup.
One Country at A Time
As Gogoro tells it, theirs are the world’s first smart scooters—that is, electrically-powered motorscooters that rely on a nationwide network of rechargeable battery-swapping terminals to keep them rolling. A smart scooter owner can stop at any one of these terminals to swap out their battery for a freshy should his/hers get low whilst out and about.
The scooters are popular and affordable—the current price is about $3,000 USD—but the necessity of the battery terminal network is making it difficult for Gogoro to break out big. To that end, the company has intentionally limited its rollouts to “one country at a time.” At this time, Taiwan is that “one country.”
The move into Germany’s most populous city is being facilitated in large part thanks to Bosch, Gogoro’s partner in the rental game and parent company of Coup. Gogoro has stated that Bosch will be buying all the smart scooters for its rental network outright, with Gogoro assisting Coup in the development and maintenance of the charging network.
Coup users will use a smartphone app to find and rent the nearest available scooter, and can then use it as long as they need to. Rentals are charged by the hour (3€ per half hour, maxing out at 20€ per day—not a bad deal), and when finished, users simply park the scooter in any legal parking space and leave it for the next rider.
The model for Berlin’s battery charging network will look different than it does in Taiwan, however. Rather than charging stalls or battery swap points, the scooters’ battery levels will be monitored by Coup, and technicians will swap the batteries out as needed in the field.
Where to Next?
Presumably, if all goes well with the Berlin expansion, Gogoro will attempt to branch out into bigger and more populous countries, though a move into the American market is probably a ways off. After all, despite the mountains of evidence that our crippling collective addiction to oil is destroying the planet and will soon make it nigh unlivable, the U.S. has yet to grow a significant electric vehicle market. Years ago, electric car manufacturers hoped to start building a nationwide network of charging stations that would allow drivers to take their electric cars cross-country. Though there has been some progress, the “nationwide network” part is still a pipe dream.
Make that “pipeless dream.” We’re talkin’ electric cars, after all…