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

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

NAIAS Vast: B2B EV

I’ve said it before: there’s an entire, enormous world the consumer on the street doesn’t see.  Except this time, it’s still on the street.

Via Motors sells electrified vehicles, just not to you.  Via takes truck and van chassis, and finishes them out (“coachbuilding”) as plug-in hybrids with a Volt-like drivetrain.  (Founder Bob Lutz came from GM, and no surprise, uses GM platforms.)  The resulting vehicles are not merely saving gas; they are now huge, self-propelled generators.  The company, then, predicted their killer app would be selling work trucks to utilities.

They seem to be on to something.  Via has a functional factory, and announced their latest big score: approximately $100 million from Canadian buyers.  Sun Country Highway has electrified the Transcontinental Highway, primarily through EVSEs at Best Western hotels.  Sun Country Highway and Best Western are now starting with their first $10 million in Via vehicles, as shuttle vans for the hotels.  Charging will be at SCH charge points, which will save the hotel chain money, and then be available for guest vehicles. Continue reading

CES 1, Audi 2(ish)

NAIAS happens to be the same time as CES, the Consumer Electronics Show.  I’ve been giving CES a whiff, simply because handheld gadgetry has been far removed from the energy domain.

No more.  Not only is telematics big, but vehicles themselves are falling in the gadget category.  Exhibit A, literally: Audi’s multiprong effort in 21st Century cars.  Besides NAIAS, they chose CES to show the Quattro Laserlight concept.  That’s “laser,” as in lasers = cool, and “Quattro™,” as in “we need 4 wheels to handle the 700 horsepower.”  Yup, not 170 hp, but seven hundred hybrid horsies.  It’s a concept car, sure.  But Volkswagen AG has committed to EVs and PHEVs, including two Porsches.  Now add Audi’s (planned) designs in (arguably) three segments.

And no mild hybrid, this Audi.  The electric motor gives 110 kW (147 hp), as much as the Honda Accord Hybrid, and backed up by a battery good for ~30 miles. Continue reading

NAIAS Blast

NAIAS without gas?  The big (electric) news is that Audi is getting serious about clean vehicles.  They’re part of Volkswagen AG, which also includes Porsche (all intent on electrification, starting with hybrids).  Yet, Audi was on again, off again with their e-tron plug-in sports coupe.  Originally advertized for 2012, the company then wavered again and again.  No more.  The R8 e-tron has been (re)confirmed.  The official line is that better batteries made the vehicle competitive; rumor is that Tesla had made their 2012 plans uncompetitive.  Going deeper- or shallower, if we’re talking pocketbooks- Audi also showed an A3 Allroad e-tron.  This crossover is a big hatchback (“sportback”) with electric all-wheel-drive and good acceleration.  Though a concept for now, Audi placed it front and center, including in their publicity, as if to show they’re a serious competitor.

Combined with VW’s e-Golf and e-Up and XL1, and Porsche’s plug-in Panamera and 918 Spyder…whole lotta snakin’ goin’ on there in Wolfsburg.  Tesla meanwhile was coy and vague about 2014- no firm Model X date besides “future,” and nothing firm on the Model E at all.

Receptacle Roundup XIIb: Japanese Level 1

I had written how Britain, Ireland, etc. lucked out with their power connector.  Well, we can certainly say we’re not Japan at least.jisc8303

Japanese Domestic Standard (JIS C 8303)

The common Japanese plug and receptacle, derived from ours, isn’t even grounded.  This despite being a rainy island, with flimsy homes needing  electric heaters and air conditioners everywhere, hit by earthquakes and typhoons.  And they aren’t even polarized, so half the time devices are backwards.  Combine this with lower voltage than us- nominally rated for up to 125 volts, but usually closer to 100.  That means even less power than our plug.  The only saving grace is that their rainy, island nation is crowded, so trips are shorter and slower. Continue reading

Receptacle Roundup XIIa: European Level 1

I posted on Caméléon and the Agility Saietta, when I can’t buy either.  Might as well do their L1 plugs:1363515

UK Domestic Standard (BS 1363, plus other names)

The UK and related markets (Ireland, some of the Commonwealth, Hong Kong/Singapore etc.*) lucked out: their postwar connector standard is about as meaty, powerful, and safe as a household plug (“Level 1“) gets.  The pinout is the same as our standard– hot (“live”), neutral/return, and ground/earth.  But BS 1363 is 240 volts, more shock-resistant, and more durable (electrically, mechanically, and thermally). Continue reading