Tue, Apr 03, 2018 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: KYMCO takes on Gogoro in electric scooter market

After dominating the nation’s gas-fueled scooter market under the KYMCO brand, Kwang Yang Motor Co last month unveiled its first electric scooter and battery charging network at the Tokyo Motor Show, taking on local rival Gogoro Inc. Kwang Yang chairman Allen Ko discussed the company’s outlook and vision in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Lisa Wang in Taipei on Thursday last week

Kwang Yang Motor Co chairman Allen Ko poses for a photograph during a demonstration of the company’s new electric scooter and Ionex battery charging system in Taipei on Thursday last week.

Photo: Lisa Wang, Taipei Times

Taipei Times (TT): What inspired Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) to enter the electric scooter market and why did the company decide on a battery charging system rather than a battery swap solution?

Allen Ko (柯勝峰): We started a project called “Electric New Experience” in 2015 in search of an optimal solution for consumers. We were inspired by the 15-year evolution of mobile phones and users’ experiences of Tesla Inc’s electric vehicles.

A survey found that what car owners like about Tesla vehicles the most is that they do not have to go to a gas station to refuel. All they have to do is charge their electric vehicle at home.

Mobile phone technology has also proved that recharging batteries every day is workable.

As such, we were pondering whether we could apply a home charging solution to electric scooters, rather than searching for a powerful battery with long endurance — a myth most manufacturers follow when developing electric scooters.

After years of hard work, we finally unveiled our electric charging solution, Ionex, in Tokyo last month.

Home charging is the core concept of the Ionex system, as KYMCO scooter riders can get enough power for daily use by plugging their vehicles into an electric socket at home.

With one charge, KYMCO scooters can travel 35km at a speed of 50kph. That is much farther than local riders’ daily average of 13km based on a survey conducted by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications last year.

With two portable batteries installed, KYMCO scooters can travel at least 60km.

TT: Applying a home charging solution to electric scooters is a different concept from what Gogoro Inc (睿能創意) has been doing. Gogoro asserts that battery swapping is the most suitable approach to address power outage concerns. Kwang Yang has also talked about alternative options such as battery leasing and a network of battery charging stations. Can you give us more details about that?

Ko: Battery leasing and a network of battery charging stations will be complementary to home charging, but it will not be the main way to charge the vast majority of KYMCO electric scooters.

Deploying battery stations is a must-have for some local competitors to attract consumers to switch to electric scooters, but not for Kwang Yang.

Without the help of a battery charging station network, KYMCO scooter riders can still travel 25km as our scooters are also powered by an embedded battery.

We do not plan to deploy such expensive battery charging stations on our own. We will do it in collaborations with other interested parties.

Convenience store chains, shopping malls, gas stations and parking lots are all potential partners. CPC Corp, Taiwan (中油) has shown strong interest in leasing charged batteries for recharging batteries. It would take an hour or so to have a battery fully charged at a gas station.

We are also seeking partners to offer electric sockets for KYMCO riders to recharge. A mobile charging device will be available when our scooters hit the market.

TT: When will KYMCO electric scooters hit the market and how much will they cost?

Ko: We are set to hold a news conference in June. All the details, including prices, specifications and battery leasing packages, will be disclosed at that time.

We are aiming to address the mass market, rather than aiming for a niche market like Tesla. As such, our scooters will carry an affordable price tag.

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