Tue, Jun 09, 2015 - Page 14 News List

INTERVIEW: Gogoro aims to reinvent how energy is consumed

Gogoro Inc, which secured US$50 million in funding from investors such as the Ruentex Group’s Samuel Yin and HTC Corp’s Cher Wang prior to its establishment in 2011, is initiating another US$100 million round to fund its planned product rollout this summer. To get an up-close look at the start-up, contributing reporter Joyce Huang sat down with Gogoro vice president of marketing Peng Ming-i, who elaborated on the firm’s vision

Gogoro Inc vice president of marketing Peng Ming-i speaks in Taipei on March 30.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: What sets Gogoro apart from other electronic scooter makers?

Peng Ming-i (彭明義): We define Gogoro as a technology company, not an electric scooter maker. We bring technology and connectivity to the world of energy distribution and management — a revolutionary way to reinvent the way people consume energy. Gasoline has dominated the market for more than 100 years. When people fill up at a gas station, the station has no idea how people use the fuel or how to optimize usage, which is irrelevant to its business operation. However, if we build an energy network, we can get an idea of how, when and where people use energy.

Leveraging this data, we can plan the distribution of energy much better than any other company in the world. Through [an app on] my mobile phone, I’ll know how many scooters are running in a certain corner of the city and their energy levels. With that knowledge, I’ll be able to fast-charge or prepare batteries at a nearby exchange station for them to swap in the next few hours. Or, if I know there are scooters at another corner running with high power levels, I won’t charge batteries at the station around that corner until, perhaps, midnight. Therefore, I can better distribute energy to the right corner at the right time, using energy in a more efficient and smarter way.

And, as our scooter has many built-in sensors [to keep tabs on the vehicle’s condition], we can proactively help users before any [mechanical malfunction] happens. So, when you put the technologies and the connectivity of using energy together, we can really change the ecosystem, not only by building an electric scooter, but by making the vehicle transportation system more efficient and smarter.

TT: Gogoro seems to be looking at the model of touting a monthly subscription fee for unlimited battery swaps. Could that encourage overconsumption?

Peng: When I say energy efficiency… From the battery to the wheels, the energy loss [of a Gogoro Smartscooter] is only 21 percent, compared with a fuel-powered scooter at 83 percent, [some of which] is from energy-burning vibration… Or, think about how hot the exhaust pipe [of a traditional scooter] is! All of that is a waste of energy.

Of course, with Gogoro, people might want to make good use of its all-you-can-ride plan, but that’ll only last for the first month. As your life returns to a normal pattern, you will consume energy how you usually consume it. So I don’t think it will create more traffic. However, we’ll make travel more fun. Each time you travel, you’re actually saving energy, because we’re four times more efficient [than traditional scooters].

TT: Does Gogoro deserve the name of Taiwan’s “Tesla on two wheels”?

Peng: It’s an easy way to describe a company that your friends do not know. Young people won’t buy the energy network concept, because it’s not sexy at all. However, they will buy cool products, because they bring fun to their lives. So we’re using a very cool and sexy product to get young people on board. Once they subscribe to our business model and own a Gogoro Smartscooter, they become contributors to a green way of life.

TT: Among Taiwan’s 13.5 million motorcyclists, what is your target clientele?

Peng: Even though we have an idea to change the world, it won’t happen overnight. We’ll be realistic. We aim to grab 30 percent of [existing] users today, who are tired of riding traditional scooters. Those who appreciate design and the value of technology will be the first wave of users of our technology. They will share the Gogoro experience — a greener, faster, sexier and smarter product, and a future vehicle with modern technology — with friends. All of these [features] packed together become a very good story.

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