Gogoro Brings The EV Battery Swapping Mojo To LATAM
The EV battery swapping movement is gathering steam, now that the focus market for swappable batteries is coming into, well, focus. Initial versions of the technology were intended to encourage people to buy electric cars, with the promise of spending less time recharging and more time driving. That was a tough sell, but the market for two-wheeled EV battery swapping has been exploding as both the simplicity and the convenience factors kick in.
Teaching New Tricks To Old EV Battery Swapping
The idea of swapping out a whole EV battery is nothing new in the logistics industry, where battery swapping has been a common feature of battery-powered forklifts and other equipment going back to the days of lead-acid technology. Taking up valuable time to recharge a battery while it’s in the vehicle is not a good fit for warehouse operations, where practically every second counts.
Pitching the EV battery swap to car drivers has been a much tougher row to hoe. However, battery swapping among the scooter-driving public seems to be another kettle of fish entirely. The relatively small, easily handled size of a scooter battery is a key factor, along with the time saved waiting around for a battery to recharge.
Gogoro On The Go
The Taiwanese company Gogoro has crossed the CleanTechnica radar many times for pushing the battery swapping envelope for scooters around the globe. Though gas-powered scooters may not seem responsible for all that much greenhouse gas, their little 2-stroke engines can put them in the “super-polluter” category. In terms of saving the planet, replacing them with a cleaner alternative is a must-do.
That’s the Gogoro mission in a nutshell. In Taiwan alone, the company currently counts almost 600,000 two-wheeled electric vehicle riders in its network of 12,000 battery swapping stations, spread among more than 2,500 sites.
Don’t just take their word for it. Last fall, CleanTechnica shared an explainer about Gogoro’s impact on rapid decarbonization from RMI, the transformative energy organization Rocky Mountain Institute.
“The company, which vastly simplifies the charging experience for the rapidly growing two-wheeled scooter market, now operates in nine countries,” RMI explained. As RMI noted, Gorogo has become the largest worldwide provider of light EV battery swapping just a little more than 10 years after it launched out of stealth mode.
Here’s that RMI link again if you want to check it out. The shorter version is that it’s all about the partnerships. In addition to introducing its own battery-swapping electric scooter, Gogoro enlisted industry partners to create a swappable battery standard, enabling other scooter makers to use Gogoro’s soup-to-nuts swapping ecosystem.
Our colleague Jennifer Sensiba also gave Gogoro a slot in her 2023 list of top EV stories, for coming up with a clean alternative to the highly polluting two-stroke scooters popular in developing countries and emerging economies.
“Many places around the world are like Taiwan in that scooters and other motorcycles are very popular, but the places to charge them overnight are almost non-existent,” she noted. “There are plenty of places to park a scooter, but few of those places have a plug.”
“By building scooters with swappable batteries and putting in a bunch of places to swap a dead one out for a fully-charged one, the company bypassed the whole problem. Now, the biggest polluters can go electric easier and cheaper than ever,” she added.
EV Battery Swapping Hearts Gas Stations
All this is by way of saying that when Gogoro enters a new market, its a really big deal in terms of high impact decarbonization.
In the latest news, Gogoro has just announced the launch of its EV battery swapping system and electric Smarscooters in Chile and Columbia later this year, leveraging locations of the leading gas retailer Copec.
Consistent with Gogoro’s focus on urban scooters, the swaps will be available at Copec service stations in Santiago, Chile, and at service stations in Bogota, Colombia that come under Terpel, a Copec subsidiary.
“On average, last mile delivery riders ride more than six-times the distance as consumer riders, so enabling these delivery riders to adopt smart sustainable electric transportation can have an accelerated impact on cities,” explained Horace Luke, the founder and CEO of Gogoro.
Though Copec still has a big footprint in the liquid fuel business, it is also making some big moves into EV battery startups and other clean tech through its San Francisco-based Copec WIND Ventures branch.
The Gogoro partnership is the first time Copec has ventured into two-wheeled EV battery charging, though it has established a leadership position in the South American charging station field for larger vehicles.
“[Copec] currently operates more than 3,000 service stations and retail stores across Latam, which include the largest electric charging network for EVs in South America, with 1,800 kilometers of extension along Chile,” Copec says of itself.
So…What About EV Battery Swapping For Cars?
Considering Gogoro’s success with two-wheeled battery swapping, we wouldn’t be surprised if they moved on to larger EV batteries, such as the battery packs in electric cars. Maybe, maybe not.
The up-and-coming generation of faster-charging, longer-ranging electric car batteries could tamp down the need for swappable batteries among the driving public at large, but MIT Technology Review took a deep dive into the subject last May and came up with some interesting insights.
Writing for MIT, climate reporter Casey Crownhart took note of the San Francisco battery swapping startup Ample, The company has developed a rapid-fire, hands-free, drive-through swap-out system, with robots doing the heavy lifting. In a partnership with Uber, they already have 12 or so swapping stations in their home town.
As described by Crownhart, the initial focus is on fleets, with the general driving public as a future goal.
The big question is how to get auto makers on board. Gogoro figured that out for two-wheeled vehicles, but bigger EV battery packs present a next-level challenge.
Ample has come up with a modular work-around that provides automakers with EV battery packs tailor-made to fit in a designated envelope. That could be an attractive benefit for EV startups, though Crownhart notes that established auto makers have already begun laying down their own EV battery swapping networks.
Another significant challenge is the expense of building, operating, and maintaining swapping stations for bigger vehicles with bigger battery packs. Those expenses get passed along to the customer, which could discourage everyday drivers from paying more just to save a few minutes. Still, there could be a market for time-sensitive fleets, drivers in a hurry, and drivers who don’t mind paying extra for a quick swap.
Access to a swapping station could also help resolve mobility challenges for drivers with disabilities, who may have difficulty getting out of their car and plugging into a charging station. If you can think of any other use cases, drop us a note in the comment thread.
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Image: The fast-growing EV battery swapping company Gogoro is moving into Latin America with an assist from the established energy firm Copec (courtesy of Gogoro via prnewswire.com).
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