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

Post-Peak

2014: what went down (so to speak) on the mountain?

-Zero Motorcycles (well, indirectly) got exactly what they put in: a Zero FX entered, and it finished.  Rider Jeff Clark put in an average time, on an average bike- it was the 2013 FX, not the improved 2014.  This is because it wasn’t literally a factory team, but pretty much sponsored by Los Angeles dealership Hollywood Electrics, who did some light mods.  (Though not enough to leave the production class, for the modified class).

-Brutus Motorcycle put in their V2 custom… and got a worse time than Clark on a Zero.  Last year’s Zero.  Last year’s lightweight Zero.  Yeah, doesn’t say much about them, but it could be the rider, not the bike.  Could be the person tuning the suspension didn’t quite grasp the issues of the course.  Could be the V2 is really more of a drag bike or boulevard catapult, and the suspension doesn’t really tune.  (The course contains hairpins, “The Devil’s Playground,” and a part called “Bottomless Pit.”  )  Never rode a Brutus, nor have any acquaintances.  Don’t particularly feel like it now.

-Bigger news: Mitsubishi’s modified race car (billed by them as a kind of MiEV, but no one actually believes that) came within 2.5 seconds of topping all other cars, gas or electric.  2.5 seconds is close enough to be driver skill, a botched corner, something getting on the course, etc.  And we were that close to a 2013 Lightning moment, but in cages, not bikes.

-Similarly, “Tesla” raced… actually, it was a privateer in a modified Tesla Roadster, not a factory team.  Similarly, a Honda Fit EV beat the sleek, expensive model.  Someone in a Honda Fit, modified only with a race-mandated roll cage, beat a Tesla sports car.

Life’s weird, eh?  Actually, no, this is perfectly understandable.  In a growth industry, lots of stuff is going on, and one slipup means the first can become last- that’s how you know the industry is actually growing and developing.

Dateline: Hypocrisy

So a Tesla S got damaged and started burning.   And?

Anyone who mocks Tesla for fires, then steps into a gasser, is a massive hypocrite.  A gasser with engine oil, too- I’ve seen car fires, and I’ve seen the major acceleration once the rest of the vehicle ignites.  Gasoline is about as dangerous as it gets; oil is harder to ignite, but also harder to extinguish.

Of course, the simple plan for a vehicle fire is to hop out- doesn’t get any simpler.  In the case of the Model S, you’re more likely to walk away from a crash, since the elimination of a metal block allows massive crumple zones.  The Model S is one of a handful of cars to receive across-the-board 5-star ratings in every NHTSA category.  Of course of course, the simplest plan to survive an accident is not getting in one in the first place.  Here, too, the Tesla’s extremely low center of gravity and real-time torque mean great handling, and fewer accidents.

Meanwhile, many thousands of gasoline fires happen every year.  Enjoy!

From The Land of The Ice and Snow:

That was quick.  Besides Norway, Tesla has begun moving product in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Iceland.  Norway makes sense, and the Netherlands too (dense population with lots of charge infrastructure, running on natural gas, wind, etc.)  But Iceland?vsticlnd

On simple geography, it’s a natural EV hotbed.  The island isn’t that big, and most of the population is on the West coast.  If your EV only needs recharging for highway trips, boom.  Iceland’s “highway network” is basically a ring road (the interior is mountainous), so the country can be covered by just a handful of Superchargers.  As few as two sites (north and south of the main, Western cities) can start the process nicely.

Digging deeper: energy is as free as it’ll ever get.  Iceland is volcanic, so fairly shallow wells yield lots of geothermal.  They’re now full of cheap, clean power.  How cheap? Continue reading

Four-By-Slower

mlgYou win some, you lose some.

Mitsubishi is delaying the US release of its Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV.  Officially, demand is too strong in Asian and European markets for existing production.  Unofficially, the battery supplier was turning out substandard cells, which may have made existing production too weak.  We certainly don’t need bad EVs in the headlines giving us a bad name, so I can deal with this.  Mitsubishi, however, is watching its head start on Tesla and Land Rover tick away.

Tesla is working towards release of its Model X full-electric SUV sometime in 2014; there are also murmurings (including from Tesla itself) of adding all-wheel drive to the Model S sedan.  Considering how few people actually go offroad, adding AWD to the COTY might do it for a good chunk of the target market.

lrlLand Rover, too, is working on a plug-in hybrid, via field tests.  A plain-hybrid Range Rover will go on sale very soon; a squad of prototype ‘Rovers is also doing a trial/PR run across Europe, to India.  Namaste, future.

Nor-way To Go!

Electric cars don’t merely function in frigid Norway… Norway has about the highest EV adoption rate of any country, haters.  Tesla has now rewarded their market with the first European sales of the Model S, and the first non-US Superchargers (in Aurland, Cinderella, Dombås, Gol, Lillehammer, and Lyngdal).

So, what’s the deal?  Why Norway, especially considering it’s an oil-exporting nation?  Well, let’s see, there’s the urbanized population, tax incentives and waived tolls, abundant hydroelectricity, and, oh yeah… the fact that Norwegians (at least as a nation) aren’t stupid.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that an entire world exists out there, a world of other customers.  If one then has oil, the smart thing to do isn’t to just light it up.  One should, instead, dupe others into lighting it up, in exchange for their hard currencies.  Norway is then flush with Euros, Pounds, Francs, etc.; are you then a dupe?

dhsNorway’s economy is doing just fine; Norway’s unemployment is about half ours.  Norway’s cars, then, increasingly operate on domestic hydropower, not fossil fuel.  This electricity is much more difficult to export (via high-purity, vulnerable cable) than oil (via boat or pipe), and would fetch a lower price even where it can go.  Note that Norwegian fuel prices are high, despite having indigenous sources; high demand from the many other countries bids it up.  This is true even before fuel taxes, so gas isn’t expensive due to “market interference”; it’s expensive due to the market itself.  Precious Norwegian fuel, then, is traded for lasting benefit, not for burning up briefly.  That’s as capitalist as it gets.

Continue reading

Supercharging Going Large

In other news from the summer, Tesla began their first European Model S shipments, starting with Norway.  Norway has also gained the first non-US Superchargers, in addition to new Supercharger sites in the US fast-charging network:p105078d

First things first, the Fremont, CA Tesla factory and the Palo Alto corporate headquarters gained a few Superchargers- why not?  Even though they aren’t on key highways between cities, the sites could stand to gain at least the hardware, for cars in prep or coming in for service.  And once you’ve got functioning hardware, you might as well finish it out into a complete unit.  It then acts as a live demo for potential or wavering customers, or company/customer training.  The Hawthorne, CA site (Los Angeles basin) also fit these (non-highway) criteria.

Normal, IL saw Superchargers open.  Normal is on Interstate 55 between Chicago and St. Louis, as well as on I-74 (to the Champaign-Urbana area and on to Indianapolis).  Aside from being a nexus of Interstates, the Bloomington-Normal area is the site of Mitsubishi’s North American plant, and is actively courting EV drivers and infrastructure.  It’s also close to Continue reading