TAIPEI -- Gogoro is perhaps the world’s first company to make electric scooters with the far-reaching aim of rethinking how cities distribute, manage and experience energy. The top management of the company are mainly from smartphone maker HTC.
The company today has branched out from Taipei into Berlin and Paris through a partnership with a Bosch subsidiary.
EE Times first met Gogoro co-founder Horace Luke at an Nvidia event early this year that showcased Gogoro’s use of virtual reality in designing electric scooters.
Luke introduced us to Matt Taylor, Gogoro’s other co-founder and the chief technical officer of the company. Prior to starting Gogoro, Luke and Taylor worked on smartphones for nearly two decades for HTC. Before that, Taylor was with Microsoft for nine years and Motorola for six years in Libertyville, Illinois.
Gogoro's corporate headquarters feels very laid back and green (Photo: EE Times)
EE Times interviewed Taylor last week at Gogoro’s headquarters in Taiwan.
EE Times: Can you talk a bit about the electronics inside a Gogoro scooter?
Taylor: There’s a staggering amount of silicon in this, which you don’t have in the scooter industry today.
We have four subsystems in the scooter. We have our battery. We have our motor. We have our motor controller, and we also have our main controller. And all of these have a very sophisticated authentication scheme that goes between all of those different pieces. They are all done in-house. They are all done on processors that are typically 50 to 100 MHz and in some cases they are DSPs, so they’ve got their MAC instructions on there, for example.
Of course, it requires a lot of firmware to implement.
EE Times: What were some of the design considerations behind the original Gogoro scooters?
Taylor: Our CEO is an unbelievably strong guy. From a design perspective and how the entire product is fit together, that’s all Horace Luke. I worked with Horace at Microsoft and HTC. He and I have worked together for almost 20 years. So there’s a really broad consumer electronics perspective. That’s been really helpful here.
My focus tends to be on the parts that you don’t really see inside the scooter. So buses and more forward-looking technology that you won’t see in the scooter for another two to three years out.
What we wanted to bring was the excitement of the cellphone so that every six months, there’s a huge upgrade. In the case of your phone, you turn it on one day, and it has a whole new personality. Everything is better. And we wanted to do that with the scooter again, so you could come out, and it might recognize for example that it’s your birthday, or new upgrades that allow your scooter to do things it couldn’t do before.
We started off in 2011 and the aim was we wanted to build really an energy company with this idea of portable, swappable power. It was a big challenge to find a scooter maker with swappable battery packs. The EV market was very new, especially as it applied to scooters.
So we had to build our own scooter to go along with the battery pack. We started off realizing that there would be two major parts. One would be the scooter, and the other would be the energy network. The way it works now, we sell you the scooter and lease you the battery. Our job is to ensure that every time you pull up to the network, you have a battery. That’s the magic.
On the scooter side, we had a lot of learning to do because a lot of the stuff on a scooter has been formalized in the automotive industry. Things like the drive cycle, how hard people accelerate, how much time they spend on the freeway, what type of thermal loading you’ll have in the car. All of that is very well known.
The scooter world is completely ad hoc. You can do a quick calculation and say I know it would take 3 kilowatts to drive down the road at this speed. But then you get into the second-order stuff like starting and stopping. What about a really hot day and your girlfriend is on the back of the scooter and you’re trying to go up a hill.
That’s where we spent a lot of time studying. It was more back to first principles.
On the energy network side of things, we had to understand how often people would want to come and swap batteries.
There was no information out there for that. The early first year or two was just a lot of first-principle stuff.
EE Times: Let’s suppose everyone in Taiwan bought an electric scooter. The government-run power company is saying that it is running close to the limit on its ability to generate electricity. Wouldn’t the supply of electrical power be overburdened if everyone started using Gogoros?
Next page: User experience like a smartphone