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.

4 Light Bulbs: One BIG Bulb

I’ve written a lot about canceling an EV’s electric usage, via (surprisingly few) “nega-watts”: electricity saved elsewhere.  I’ve mentioned lighting so far.  LED lamps use under a quarter of incandescents’ power- more like a fifth or sixth, meaning they even save over fluorescents.  I also mentioned these nega-watts then cut air conditioning too, since wasted bulb energy turns into heat.

Well, let’s go ahead and stake that vampire good, shall we?  One cannot discuss power savings, and the grid in general, without tackling the A/C question.  What shall we do with the one biggest load in the house, and most businesses too?  Grid load is driven by the hottest days’ A/C load, by definition.  Utilities plan on the max expected A/C usage, then upgrade their network to match.  Anyone with the grid in mind must plan on hot summer afternoons, too.

702fI know what I’ll do about A/C: the rest of my plan.  The last time I needed roof work, I got the lightest shade the company had.  I’ve bought new windows and more insulation, to put in my attic and walls; I’m about to buy even more.  My utility has their own initiatives: subsidies for efficiency, and for A/C budgeting.  In the future, I may nail that coffin once and for all.  I’m looking into a ground heat pump, drastically more efficient than plain ol’ air conditioners. Continue reading

The Coming Natural Gas “Crash”

This year I’m thankful… I’m not exposed to gas fracking!  Not literally- by exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluids- and not financially either, vested in petro-speculation.  I had always cast an eye toward fracking, for one simple reason if nothing else: I, along with others, remember the last boom and bust in natural gas.  And while few are alive from the really big boom and bust, the lessons are written for anyone willing to read them.  You know, “due dilligence.”

Good signs of a bubble: sudden growth, with multiple investment opportunities, going down past professional financiers to prosumers and onto “Main Street” (however you define that).  Not so good sign: opacity, as in opaque deals, pricing, and even basic processes and technologies.  That is bad since, without informed deals, prosumers and Main Street (and even some pros) jump in for fear of missing out on a boom, with little time (or possibly even ability) to do their due dilligence.  That is also… present in spades in the situation at hand.

Of course, some people will make out like bandits; there are always some in every bubble.  The better question is who, because everyone thinks it’s going to be them.  It’s obvious they can’t all be, can they?  Of course everyone can’t be- in a turnabout, the success of a few is predicated on them beating out the rest.  Continue reading

Rimac’s Real (well, mostly)

Rimac Automobili, the Croatian company that I mentioned, is one step closer to selling its supercar design.  Rimac has obtained ten million Euros (~12 million USD) towards selling its “C1” or “Concept_One” super-coupe.  Investors have contributed this much for a Series A financing round; the company claims it is expanding and developing.

rimaclogoOn the one hand, this looks pretty compelling.  The vehicle itself, with over 1,000 horsepower as currently designed, can embarrass many Ferraris; founder Mate Rimac claims its interior will have every appointment.  Mate Rimac got his start as an e-racer of his own conversions and homebuilts, so he’s not coming in cold.  He’s also selling components to other automakers, and the Greyp electric bike/moped, again gaining practical experience in real-word products and manufacturing.  This is in Eastern Europe mind you, with low wages and rents but surprising scientific and engineering talent.  Meanwhile, since the C1 car will go for a million apiece, at a low delivery rate, to those who can pay cash on the counter, financing the company behind it will be easier than in a more consumer-oriented, competitive, high-production rate market segment.

On the other hand though, ~$12 million is NOTHING in auto world.  It’s why I led off with “one step closer,” and not “already there.”  Rimac’s capitalization is around 70-80 million dollars; Tesla by comparison required oh… around half a billion to get going.  And that’s starting with the Tesla Roadster, which was built around the Lotus Elise, which was already converted to electric by other houses.  It took three more years to go from Roadster to the Model S, the company burning up money all the way.  While this one financing round makes Rimac more credible than it was before, that’s still not saying all that much.  Continue reading

OP-Ex? (or Indonesia, BOOM)

First Norway, then Iran, now Indonesia.  Even oil-rich nations can’t ignore the future.

The Iranian government had previously turned to natural-gas vehicles.  Tehran is highly polluted, and this “oil-rich” nation is actually fuel-poor.  It doesn’t have enough refineries to turn crude oil into finished fuels, nor enough hard currency for refinery construction.  What oil they have, then, should be saved for export (and gaining hard currencies), meaning Iranian motorists should consume something else.  Natural gas uses much less refining, and is hard to export due to handling and packaging issues.  Iran then encourages its drivers to fill up on domestic natural gas, saving their oil.

Now add electricity.  The government is promoting hybrid cars and electric bikes, even founding a lithium battery factory.  The electricity can be generated by natural gas (a more efficient usage anyway) or with the low-grade residues from oil refining- “bunker fuel,” the dregs of the process.  Or, by solar, which is not a problem in A DESERT.

Indonesia, too, is seeking modern vehicle tech.  Despite being an oil exporter, Indonesia sought natural gas and EV technologies from the US delegation after the recent Beijing summit.  Indonesian cities are also choked with scooter and diesel exhausts; the nation also wants to export what oil it has, and not just light it up.  In Indonesia’s case, they’ve been developing biodiesel from tropical plants as an oil substitute.  It’s clear, though, that biodiesel only goes so far.  There’s only so much land that can be sown with palms, and it’s nowhere near enough.  Indonesia is approaching a third of a billion people, yet wants to stay an oil exporter.

The future isn’t approaching, it’s here.  We can export it.  And yet, I’m still hearing haters.  Why?  Because “you can’t put a gun rack in a Volt,” and other “probably”s… including from people who complain about the dollar.

See also: Bhutan, BOOM, From The Land of The Ice and Snow:, Nor-way To Go!, The Shells Fell From His Eyes