A year ago we admired the Gogoro Smartscooter, an electric scooter with a lot of very nice features and one big thing missing: a plug. Instead, there was going to be a network of battery swapping stations spread around the community. It is a brilliant idea for dense urban environments where people don’t have garages or places to plug in their bikes. It has been successful too; in Taipei, Taiwan, they have sold 4,000 scooters and have installed 125 charging stations. But what is a feature in a dense city like Taipei or Amsterdam becomes a bug in North America, where the low density would make a swapping network incredibly expensive. People also drive a lot more and scooter a lot less, but you need to sell a lot of bikes to support the network, which is not going to happen fast over here.

battery chargerBattery charger with two batteries and lovely concrete wall. (Photo: Gororo)

To deal with this, and bring the scooters to North America, Gororo just unveiled in Vegas, at the big Consumer Electronics Show, the GoCharger, a charging base that holds two batteries. There are two models: an overnight charger and a quick-charge unit. According to the press release,

The new Gogoro GoCharger™ can be used at home or retail locations and can charge a pair of batteries simultaneously. When batteries are placed in the Gogoro GoCharger™ it connects wirelessly and can send charging notifications to the owner. Gogoro also utilizes the connectivity to manage charge levels, charge rates and the overall health of the Gogoro battery.

app for smart batteryThere's an app to help you find the nearest charger. (Photo: Gogoro)

They have also developed the Gogoro OPEN initiative, where the sharing economy meets the battery charger. This identifies all the chargers that people or businesses are willing to share. Gogoro will actually give out the chargers for free to businesses that will host them. Think of how coffee shops have free Wi-Fi; now they might have free fast chargers.

It’s a brilliant idea. Instead of having to pick cities to invest time and money to find places to install swapping stations, the market builds itself. It becomes an instant ad hoc sharing system. It is, as the press release notes, “a more scalable and readily available solution for customers outside of Gogoro’s planned megacity rollout.” They will use the data from the ad hoc network to determine which cities to deploy their larger swapping stations. Horace Luke, co-founder and CEO, Gogoro, says:

The Gogoro OPEN Initiative gives power to the people, broadens our addressable market and speeds our commercialization beyond our core geographic focus of megacities.

From a business point of view, North America is probably the last place that Gogoro would build networks; scooters are not a major mode of transport and cities and even New York is not particularly big or dense compared to Asian ones cities. This is a great way to kickstart the program.

gogoro at sunsetProfessional rider on closed course. Do not try this at home. (Photo: Gogoro)

The Gogoro is a smart scooter, but the battery swap system was a brilliant feature that could use off-peak power and store renewables, having a real impact if it is scaled. Thanks to this new charger and the OPEN initiative, we might actually see it come sooner rather than later.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.