There are a couple locations in Taichung now, so I checked one out today. There are three models right now: Gogoro Lite, Gogoro, Gogoro Plus. The Lite doesn’t seem that great. It seems like a good idea to go with the standard one. It comes with assisted backing (like reverse, but much slower; useful for pulling it out of a parking space) and an under-seat charger for your cellphone. Other benefits are front and rear disk brakes and a 2-year warranty–regardless of how many kilometers you have on it.
That’s about it, though. I told the salesperson my wife was interested in one and asked what he would say to convince someone to switch from a 100cc to a Gogoro. The number one reason he said was because it was environmentally friendly–which I thought was a good point. I asked him what the second reason is. He said you can customize the appearance. That made my heart sink. If that’s the second-best reason for owning one, might as well not buy one until they improve upon it.
To me, the big drawbacks are the proprietary battery (more on that below) and the bluetooth. Until they get those batteries being used by others, it’s still a risk for anyone buying a Gogoro. 1.) The company could go bankrupt and abandon its users. 2.) They can sucker people in now, then, because there’s no competition, charge whatever they want later. If one gas station closes or decides to increase their prices, I can just go down the street and get gas at another station. Not so with Gogoro. Also, there is still no provision for in-home charging. They want you to go to their stations. That’s their angle, and they don’t seem to want to relent on that, which makes me suspicious.
I’m also worried about the always-on bluetooth. I view that as unsafe from a hacking point of view. Some of the best, most sophisticated, most careful companies in the world have been hacked. It would be extremely naive for them to think they won’t be.
The scooter itself is small, but not exactly light. It is designed for two riders, but they’d have to be pretty small–say, a woman and a child. It felt a lot like sitting on my wife’s 100cc. If I sit on the Gogoro, there’s enough room for me, but there wouldn’t be enough room for my wife behind because of my height (180cm). If she sat on the front, I could probably sit behind her. However, she would never want to drive around the city in heavy traffic with me on the back if we ever had to double. At least with her 100cc, she can fit on the back with me on the front.
There is one final thing. The scooter only goes 100km if you drive it at 40km/h. Not even my wife drives that slowly. I asked him how far it would go if I were to drive it at 70km/h. He refused to answer that question–and rightly so, because it would be breaking the law, and he can’t discuss that for legal reasons. I get that. But that’s not what he said. He asked why anyone would ever drive it that fast. He said there are no roads with a speed limit that fast. I pointed out that the road to Sun Moon Lake had a higher speed limit. That thought never even occurred to him. I asked him if the website hosted a discussion forum. He said it did, but for owners only. I asked if anyone on there ever mentioned how far their scooters went at higher speeds. He said, no, no one ever discusses that. They only talk about where they went and how much fun they had. Eventually, he very quietly mumbled a reply about how far, hypothetically, it could go at higher speeds, but he didn’t like having to say it out loud. For his sake, I won’t say the number here, but it is in line with some of the speculation I remember reading about in this thread.
The only thing that did make me feel good about my visit today is a casual comment he made about their batteries. He said they’re actually a battery company, but they’re looking for opportunities to showcase their technology. This scooter is only one idea they have, and it was the easiest one to bring to market. That actually gives me some confidence that they’ll look for partnerships with other scooter manufacturers, as well as a host of other ideas beyond scooters. The only slight damper he put on this was when I said I’d have more confidence in their stability as a company once they do have some partnerships in place. He said I’d have to wait years for that. That didn’t strike me as a highly motivated company.
All of this is just the fundamentals. I didn’t even test ride one. No matter how good the ride is, there are still too many red flags for me. Right now, they seem to be for the upper-middle class who can afford to throw away almost NT$100,000 and not bat an eye at the risk of losing it. It’s also a scooter for women. There, I said it: it’s girly–no two ways about it. Other than the acceleration, there is not one drop of masculinity in it. Not many guys are going to be interested in pimping one of these out, let alone riding to the girlfriend’s house to take her to a KTV. It’s not great for doubling or taking into the mountains. It’s designed for short commuting trips at lower than average speeds. The battery situation has no clear plan for market longevity. I’ll keep my eye on this thread for new developments, but they have some improvements to make.