Gogoro, a Taiwanese startup helmed by former HTC designer Horace Luke, makes a smartphone-connected electric scooter powered by swappable batteries available at kiosks strategically placed around a city. It looks great, the concept is novel, and we've loved it every time we've seen it. The big problem, though, is that its availability is limited by the roll-out of the battery kiosks: you can't charge the batteries without them, so until Gogoro decides to officially come to your city, you can't have the Smartscooter — and so far, the only deployed city is Taipei, with Amsterdam coming soon.
That problem might be solved with Gogoro's announcements at CES this week. First, the company is launching the GoCharger, which is basically a tiny version of the standard battery kiosk that can be used either in the home or in public spaces and has just two slots for batteries. It'll be available this summer in two versions, an overnight charger and a quick charger; both connect up to Gogoro's network wirelessly, which means scooter owners can get battery status notifications on their phone.
Theoretically, if there are enough GoChargers around a town, you can ride around and swap batteries just like you would in an "official" Gogoro city like Taipei — but that takes a lot of critical mass. To try to get there, Gogoro is also announcing the so-called OPEN Initiative, a web portal where would-be riders can indicate interest in the platform, after which the company "will use the geographic enrollment data collected [...] to select new markets and will then deploy to cities with the most interest." To help move things along, businesses that agree to offer GoChargers for public use can get them at no cost.
So the bad news is Gogoro still won't sell a Smartscooter to just anyone, regardless of their location — it still wants to rely on a network of public battery charging stations — but the GoCharger might help it get to more cities much faster than it could otherwise.
OPEN Initiative cities are expected to launch in Europe this summer, followed by the US "shortly after."