Gogoro: The Tesla of NOT TESLAS

Yeah, we’ve all heard “the Tesla of _____” get tossed out.  It’s usually hype, all hype.  You know what?  A scooter startup might actually resemble Tesla more, and not how most people would expect.  Bear with me now.

Gogoro kept mum ’til CES.  No one let on what was in progress, except to say energy.  They raised $150 million in seed money somehow- way more than Rimac Motors of course, and into aerospace territory.  Also, the founders are from Taiwan tech firm HTC (of phone fame); backer #1 is HTC’s Cher Wang.  This is like Tesla’s Elon Musk coming from Paypal.  So, some new kind of charger maybe?  Boy, were we wrong; Gogoro revealed they are, at first glance, a scooter company, yet not- they happen to have a scooter, and something else in progress.

Sure, other people are building electric scooters, not the least of which is BMW- that’s right, the ultimate scootering machines.  Gogoro’s ride is suitably phone-like; it has sleek, hard lines more like bizzaro furniture, and LEDs shimmering front and back.  No, Gogoro’s trick is not some vehicle, but a platform, and not for your boots.  Gogoro battery modules pull out of the chassis, and slot back to recharge in public kiosks.  Kiosks that will rent batteries to Gogoro riders, plus other customers they don’t say yet.  Who else do Gogoro plan on attracting?  Let’s speculate:gklcf

-The original scooter riders
-Other electric 2-wheelers
-Electric cars
-Other consumer electronics: Lawn care
-Other consumer electronics: Home hubs
-Grid backups and grid substitutes Continue reading

Brammo Go BLAMMO

And the other tire drops: Brammo, that electric motorcycle company that talked a big talk, now tanks big time.  After not even three full years of Empulse motorcycle sales, Brammo, Inc. now ceases to exist as an independent entity, having been bought out by Polaris Industries (makers of ATVs, snowmobiles, the Victory and Indian gasser motorcycle brands, etc.).  Whether they will exist at all is now Polaris’ play.  brmm

The first public clue was Brammo announcing an “end of season” clearance sale.  An end of season sale last August.  Personally, late August/early September is when my riding season is in its second wind, literally.  Anyway, Brammo slashed prices by about half on some bikes.  Then it was seen that dealers- such as they were- still had 2013 Brammo Empulses to get rid of.  They still had clearance Empulses into 2015.  The second public clue were the reports of little or no activity at Brammo headquarters/factory in Oregon.

My clue, however, came years ago, dealing with these Keystone Choppers.  In my experience, Brammo was chasing a phantom: the fickle tastes of a small segment of motorcyclists, itself a small segment of vehicle buyers in general.  Rather than start with a good technology base, then digging in with plans to grow out from there, Brammo tried to nail it with one shot.  They thought they had to have a multispeed transmission/clutch to replicate the “real motorcycle” experience.  Instead, contracting IET for trannys delayed production and sale, and made Empulses the worst of both worlds: the limited range of an electric, with the gear slop of a gasser.  Meanwhile gear losses net you even less range. Continue reading

CES-of-Show

ceslAnd another CES is in the books.  The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show was big as usual, but if I had to sum it up, two categories would be “wearables” and “rideables.”  Watches and other small-gadget-with-transceivers-and-app were of course everywhere.  Less usual this year: smart transport on display, not just smart accessories.  At the Convention Center:

  • The OneWheel “uni-skateboard” is back.  After last year’s debut, they have succesfully delivered units to Kickstarter backers by Christmas.  Reports are that the finished product is pretty polished, and some even got to ride it.
  • Acton RocketSkates had broken cover before, but CES made it official.  Like OneWheel, they’re “segwayfied” transport, but in rollerskate form, not skateboard.
  • Boosted Board’s e-skateboard was also known, but now cut by hundreds of dollars.
  • The big news: Gogoro’s electric scooter and “ecosystem,” which I’ll discuss later.
  • In established manufacturers, BMW and Mercedes had splashy autonomous car demonstrations.

Stay tuned, apparently they’ve got more energy than I do.

The Re-Fire Strikes Back

Cree 4flow LED lampAgain, welcome to 2015.  And a happy 2015 it is, at least in energy.  Not only have LED lamps fallen in price drastically from just a few years ago, but they continue to improve, in multiple respects.  Cree, one of the bigger names in LEDs, didn’t just release their groundbreaking lamp about a year ago.  They’re now on their generation-2 product, and yes, competition has improved the breed.

I’ve just installed Cree’s “4flow” LED lamp.  I bought this standard Edison base (“A19”) in 40-Watt equivalent.  Actual consumption is 6W, saving 34 nega-watts, or 85% less than an incandescent bulb of the same light output.  That’s also a savings over a compact fluorescent, though far less.  The big trick is getting rid of incandescents, which have only a few percent light efficacy.  The other ~97% of the electricity you put in is wasted as heat.  Basically, incandescents are little heaters that, oh by the way, make some light too.  But unlike fluorescents, LEDs turn on instantly.  They’re vibration, cold, and cycling resistant.  Their lives aren’t shortened by on-off cycles, such as bathroom and hallway installations.  Nor do they contain any mercury, though the mercury level of CFLs has been exaggerated. Continue reading

Coal Fold 2: One-Two Punch (Plus…)

I wrote previously that coal is just not that hot of a fuel.  Compared to natural gas, coal isn’t logical for electric generation, and getting less and less logical with time.  Meanwhile, solar power is getting cheaper every year, with grid parity on the way in a few short years (maybe one).  In some places, parity has already been reached.  Coal pushers still try to tell us that they’re the reliable, American energy.  The claim is that solar (like wind or other renewables) varies, and cannot keep power grids stable and consistent in the face of demand.  What they conveniently forget to tell you is: Coal isn’t too hot at that, either.

As solar prices keep crossing parity, along with the rest of the portfolio (gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, etc.), there will soon be no credible pitch for coal.  My advice: get out.  If you’re exposed to coal financially, sell.  If you’re actually looking at a coal seam, get out via the nearest exit ASAP, and find a new career.  Of course, nothing ever really goes away, as I’ve stated multiple times.  There’ll be a transition period, and even after that the grid will cling to legacy plants.  However, there is no coal growth on the horizon; it’s a matter of coal staying level or contracting, and at what contraction rate.

Electricity use varies through the day, and today’s grid does “load following” to match supply with demand.  In a few situations, usage ramps up strongly, and utilities call on “peaker plants” to fulfill demand.  It is thus desirable for generation to be throttleable, or in grid terms “dispatchable.”  This holds when you can’t find ways to smooth out usage (“peak shaving”), or store electricity on these large scales.  Coal lobbyists then claim they are dispatchable, but no, coal really isn’t. Continue reading

I’ll Give Them Credit

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

...in with the new!

…in with the new!

Again, almost 2015.  My bank tossed their old bulbs and installed LEDs because… they’re a bank, and it’s almost 2015.  Obsolete lighting technology wastes energy, and thus money.  LEDs make money, as banks are supposed to do- certainly any bank of mine. Continue reading

More Power? Full Scale, Scotty!

Gas station went solar: WE WIN

Gas station went solar: WE WIN

 

It’s December… almost the new year, and what a year.  George W. Bush said solar power would reach grid parity (price matching) in 2015.  Let that sink in: former oilman/Texas governor Bush, said back in his presidential administration that solar power would cost no more than “regular” electricity by this coming year.  By the way, he was speaking in a broad, national sense.  Grid parity of solar has already happened in several states, including a few not in the desert Southwest.

Oh, and by the way by the way, this includes a few states where parity has already been reached with no incentives and subsidies counted.  However, it doesn’t include the costs of polluters passing their externalities onto everyone- socialized costs but privatized profits.  Nor, of course, are we counting the fiscal loss: valuable, exportable goods being burnt up here, instead of helping our trade deficit, and thus defending the dollar.

Aaand by the way by the way by the way, that’s parity of solar electricity vs. grid electricity.  If you’re comparing solar versus gasoline, i. e., in efficient electric vehicles, then parity was reached in almost all 50 states, years ago.  So, why are we still debating?  Because there are still issues, and it’s not as simple as ordering a few panels; it was never going to be that easy.  Nothing insurmountable though, just implementation hassles, except for people actively resisting change, like ideologues who won’t (or can’t) do the math.  Continue reading