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Taiwanese startup Gogoro is making news today after 4 years operating in stealth, revealing smart electric scooter made for commuters together with a ridiculously ambitious intend to power it. You don’t plug the scooter in, as if you would essentially any other electric vehicle worldwide – instead, Gogoro has its sights set on user-swappable batteries as well as a vast network of battery swapping stations that could cover some of the most densely populated cities on earth.

I first got a peek at the device in an event few weeks ago in San Francisco, where Gogoro CEO Horace Luke worked the area with all the charm, energy, and nerves of your man who was revealing his life’s passion initially. Luke is really a designer by trade with long stints at Nike, Microsoft, and HTC under his belt, with his fantastic creative roots show in everything Gogoro has been doing. The scooter just looks fresh, like Luke hasn’t designed one before (which happens to be true).

Maybe it’s the former smartphone designer in him that’s showing through. Luke is joined by several former colleagues at HTC, including co-founder Matt Taylor. Cher Wang, HTC’s billionaire founder, counts herself among Gogoro’s investors. The business has raised a total of $150 million, which is now on the line as it attempts to convince riders, cities, and someone else that will listen that it will pull all of this off.

At the top level, Gogoro is announcing the Smartscooter. It’s likely the coolest two-wheeled runabout you could buy: it’s electric, looks unlike everything else available on the market, and incorporates a number of legitimately unique features. All-LED headlights and taillights with programmable action sequences lend a Knight Rider aesthetic. An always-on Bluetooth connection links in a smartphone companion app, where one can change various vehicle settings. The true secret, a circular white fob, is completely wireless like in a modern car. You may also download new sounds for startup, shutdown, turn signals, and the like; it’s some an homage to the founders’ roots at HTC, in a industry where ringtones are big business.

“Electric scooter” inherently sounds safe and slow, but Gogoro is spending so much time to dispel that image upfront. It’ll reliably do smoky burnouts – several were demonstrated to me by the company’s test rider – and yes it hits 50 km/h (31 mph) in 4.2 seconds. (It’s surreal going to a scooter, the icon of practical personal transport, lay an ideal circle of rubber with a public street since the rider slowly pivots the machine on its front wheel.) Top speed is 60 mph, which compares favorably to your Vespa 946’s 57 mph. The company’s promotional video comes with a black leather-clad badass leaning hard through sweeping turns, superbike-style, dragging his knees in the pavement as you go along. Luke says they’re appealing to young riders, and it also certainly comes through.

It’s not just that you don’t plug the Smartscooter in – you can’t. When power runs low, you visit charging kiosks placed strategically around a town (Gogoro calls them GoStations) to swap your batteries, an operation that only requires a few seconds. The hope would be that the company can sell the Smartscooter for the similar cost being a premium gasoline model by taking out the extremely expensive cells, instead offering using the GoStations through a subscription plan. The subscription takes the area of the money you’d otherwise spend on gas; you’re basically paying monthly for the energy. In the event the “sharing economy” is hot right now – ZipCar, Citibike, so on – Gogoro wishes to establish itself because the de facto battery sharing ecosystem. (The organization hasn’t announced pricing for either the folding electric scooter or maybe the subscription plans yet.)

“By 2030, there’s will be 41 megacities, almost all within the developing world,” Luke says, pointing to your map dedicated to Southeast Asia. It’s a region which includes succumbed to extreme air pollution lately, a victim of industrialization, lax environmental regulation, and a rising middle-class with money to spend. It’s also a region that depends on two-wheeled transportation in a manner that the Western world never has. Scooters, which flow through the thousands throughout the clogged streets of metropolises like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, are ripe targets for slashing smog; many models actually belch more pollutants to the air than the usual modern sedan.

Electric vehicles are often maligned for merely moving the pollution problem elsewhere instead of solving it outright – you’ve got to make the electricity somehow, in the end – but Luke and Taylor are well-ready for the question, insisting that you’re more well off burning coal outside a major city to power clean vehicles inside of it. Long term, they note, clean energy probably becomes viable in today’s emerging markets.

Opened for service, the Smartscooter looks almost alien-like.

The batteries happen to be designed in collaboration with Panasonic, a prolific battery supplier containing enjoyed the EV spotlight in recent times as a result of its partnership with Tesla as well as an investment in Elon Musk’s vaunted Gigafactory. These are generally no Tesla batteries, though: each dark gray brick weighs about the same as being a bowling ball, built with an ergonomic bright green handle using one end. They’re created to be lugged around by anyone and everybody, but I can imagine really small riders dealing with the heft. Luke and Panasonic EVP Yoshi Yamada seem to be as interested in the batteries as everything else, lauding their NFC authentication, 256-bit encryption (“banks use 128-bit encryption,” Luke says), and smart circuitry. Basically, they’ll refuse to charge or discharge unless placed in a certified device, and they’re completely inert otherwise.

That circuitry is without question driven in part by way of a desire to lock down Gogoro’s ecosystem and render the batteries useless to anyone not utilizing a Gogoro-sanctioned device – yes, battery DRM – but it’s also about creating the battery swapping experience seamless. The Smartscooter’s bulbous seat lifts to show a lighted cargo area and 2 battery docks. Riders looking for more power would stop at GoStation, grab both batteries from beneath the seat, and slide them in the kiosk’s spring-loaded slo-ts. The equipment identifies the rider in accordance with the batteries’ unique IDs, greets them, scans for almost any warnings or problems which have been recorded (say, a brake light has gone out or perhaps the scooter was dropped ever since the last swap), offers service options, and ejects a new pair of batteries, all throughout about six seconds. I’d guess that an experienced Smartscooter rider could probably stop and stay back on the streets in under 30 seconds.

The reasoning exploits certain realities about scooters that aren’t necessarily true for other sorts of vehicles. Most of all, they’re strictly urban machines: you won’t generally ride a scooter cross-country, and you definitely won’t have the ability to by using a Smartscooter. It’s created to stay in the footprint from the GoStations that support it. It’ll go 60 miles on a single charge – not too good in comparison to a gas model, but the issue is tempered to many degree by how effortless battery swaps are. A dense network of swapping stations solves electric’s single biggest challenge, that is charge time.

If Luke will be the face of Gogoro, CTO Matt Taylor is the arbiter of reality, the guy behind the curtain translating Luke’s fever dreams into tangible results. A lifelong engineer at Motorola and Microsoft before his time at HTC, Taylor spends my briefing burning through spec sheet after spec sheet, datum after datum. It’s like they have mathematically deduced that Gogoro’s time comes. “What you’ve seen today could not have access to been done three or four in the past,” he beams, noting that everything concerning the Smartscooter was designed in-house because off-the-shelf components simply weren’t suitable. The liquid-cooled motor is made by Gogoro. So is definitely the unique aluminum frame, that is acoustically enhanced to present the scooter a Jetsons-esque sound because it whizzes by.

Two batteries power the Smartscooter for roughly 60 miles between swaps.

Taylor also beams when conversing about the cloud that connects the GoStations to 1 another and to the Smartscooters. Everything learns from everything else. Stations with good traffic might be set to charge batteries faster and a lot more frequently, while lower-use stations might hold back until late inside the night to charge, relieving pressure on strained power grids. As being the batteries age, they become less efficient; stations might be set to dispense older batteries to less aggressive drivers. With all the smartphone app, drivers can reserve batteries at nearby stations for approximately 10 minutes. Luke says there’ll inevitably be times the location where the station you desire doesn’t have charged batteries available, although with careful planning and load balancing, he hopes it won’t happen more than once or twice a year.

But therein lies the problem: just how Gogoro works – and the only method the system functions – is actually by flooding cities with GoStations. “One station per mile is exactly what we’re looking for,” Luke says, noting that this company provides the capital to roll over to a couple of urban areas initially. The kiosks, which cost “under $ten thousand” each, will be belonging to Gogoro, not a 3rd party. They can go virtually anywhere – they cart out and in, are vandalism-resistant, and screw in place – but someone still needs to negotiate with home owners to get them deployed and powered. It’s a big, expensive task that runs an increased chance of bureaucratic inefficiency, and it must be repeated ad nauseam for every city where Gogoro wants its scooters. So far, it isn’t naming which cities will dexmpky62 first, but Southeast Asia is clearly priority one. Luke also seems to take great desire for San Francisco, where our briefing was held. He says there’ll be news on deployments in 2015.

Company officials are focusing on that initial launch (and for good reason), but there’s more on the horizon. Without offering any details, they say there are additional forms of vehicles in development that will make use of Gogoro’s batteries and stations. I specifically inquire about cars, since it doesn’t seem to me that one could effectively power a whole-on automobile with some bowling ball-sized batteries. “4-wheel is not unthinkable in any way,” Luke assures me. He seems more reticent about licensing Gogoro like a platform that other vehicle makers could use, but leaves it open being a possibility.

And when the batteries aren’t good enough to use on the streets anymore – about 70 percent in their new capacity – Gogoro doesn’t would like to recycle them. Instead, it envisions a complete “second life” for thousands of cells, powering data centers or homes. Luke thinks there can even be described as a third life next, powering lights and small appliances in extremely rural areas of the world. For the present time, though, he’s just hoping to get the electric assist bike launched.

At the conclusion of my briefing, I looked back through my notes to totally digest the absurdity of the items Gogoro is wanting to complete: launch a car from your company that has never done so, power it having a worldwide network of proprietary battery vending machines, launch more vehicle models, sell old batteries to Google and Facebook, wash, rinse, repeat. Reduce smog, balance power grids, save the entire world. I could certainly realize why it was an appealing substitute for the incremental grind of designing the following smartphone at HTC – however i may also make a disagreement that they’re out of their minds.

I don’t think Luke would disagree, but he’d also debate that you’ve got as a little crazy to take on something this big. If he’s feeling any late-stage trepidation on the magnitude in the undertaking, he certainly isn’t showing it. “Everything was approximately getting it perfect, so we did from the soil up.”