CES 2015: Gogoro unveils smart scooter

The Gogoro Smartscooter is a sleek scooter with programmable LED headlight and a top speed of 60 m.p.h. The Gogoro Smartscooter doesn't plug into the wall, though – riders will swap depleted batteries for fresh ones at a network of charging stations.

Gogoro, a Taiwanese startup founded by former HTC executives, has been operating in stealth mode for more than three years, only occasionally teasing what it’s up to with announcements about transforming energy use in cities.

At CES 2015, the company finally revealed what it’s been working on: the Smartscooter, a commuter-friendly electric scooter that has an all-electronic dashboard and can hit a top speed of 60 m.p.h.

The Smartscooter links up with a rider’s smart phone via Bluetooth, allowing him or her to program the vehicle’s settings, download sound effects for start up and shut down, and even set light patterns for the LED headlights and taillights.

The rider can also adjust the scooter’s throttle responsiveness via smart phone. And because the Smartscooter is connected to the cloud, it can tell the rider when and where to recharge the batteries when they’re getting low.

Why would someone need to know a specific charging location? Because the Smartscooter doesn’t plug into a wall to recharge. Instead, it runs on swappable batteries; when your juice runs low, you visit a charging kiosk and swap your old batteries out for new ones. A demonstration video shows a rider opening the scooter’s seat like the lid of a jar, hoisting out two green-handled batteries about the size of one-gallon milk jugs, depositing them in the kiosk, and putting fresh batteries in the scooter. Special encryption means the batteries won’t charge or discharge unless they’re in an authorized device.

Gogoro envisions a network of charging stations around cities; riders would pay a monthly subscription to use them. This subscription would replace a monthly gas budget, and swappable batteries mean scooters can go from depleted to ready-to-roll in seconds, not hours. The scooter has a range of between 30 and 60 miles on one set of batteries, meaning it’ll need to stay close to the networks of charging stations. Gogoro hasn’t said how much the scooter will cost, nor how much a battery subscription would cost.

One of the company’s main goals is to help reduce pollution in urban areas, particularly in Asia. Yes, electric vehicles still pollute (after all, the energy for the batteries has to be produced somewhere), but Gogoro founders Horace Luke and Matt Taylor say it’s better to produce that energy outside of cities, and then use it to power clean vehicles in areas where lots of people live.

Mr. Luke says the Smartscooter will launch sometime in 2015, but wouldn’t say where. Perhaps it’ll be easy to tell in advance, if you notice green-handled batteries being deposited in a charging station near you.

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