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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Taiwan's EV start-up Gogoro plans expansion in South East Asia

US vice president Al Gore-backed firm sees the smog-choked streets of the region as the ideal target market

Horace Luke, founder and chief executive officer of Gogoro, the Taiwanese electric scooter maker backed by former US Vice President Al Gore, sees the smog-choked streets of Southeast Asia as the ideal target market. Billy H.C. Kwok / Bloomberg.
Horace Luke, founder and chief executive officer of Gogoro, the Taiwanese electric scooter maker backed by former US Vice President Al Gore, sees the smog-choked streets of Southeast Asia as the ideal target market. Billy H.C. Kwok / Bloomberg.

Gogoro, the Taiwanese electric scooter maker backed by former US vice president Al Gore, sees the smog-choked streets of South East Asia as the ideal target market as it embarks on a quest to expand its business overseas.

The startup is looking to launch sales of its scooters in its first market outside Taiwan, the company’s founder and chief executive officer Horace Luke said in an interview in Taipei Tuesday. He mentioned Manila as one city the company is considering.

“We’re planning our next big city move,” Mr Luke said. “We have lots of cities to choose from. We’re finalizing which one right now.”

The move comes at a time when Gogoro is under increasing pressure to deliver on its promise after receiving high-profile backing last year. The company raised $300 million from Mr Gore’s sustainability-focused investment firm Generation Investment Management, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, and French utility Engie. The investment raised its valuation to around $800m according to a person familiar with the matter.

“I’ve always told my shareholders, the day I return a dividend is the day you should sell your shares,” said Mr Luke. “The world sells about 50 million two-wheel vehicles every year. That’s a lot of people moving around on two wheels that need to convert to electric.”

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After selling its first scooter in Taiwan in 2015, Gogoro is facing increased challenges in its home market. While the Taiwanese government aims to ban the sale of non-electric motorcycles by 2035 as part of a plan to rein in air pollution, traditional scooter manufacturers are putting up more of a fight. Officials held off last week on a decision to use Gogoro’s battery-swapping system as the national standard after Kaohsiung-based Kwang Yang Motor Company proposed its own competing system. The government is yet to schedule another meeting with manufacturers to decide on the issue, according to a report in the Taipei Times.

Gogoro has built approximately 500 battery-swap stations around Taiwan, and plans to add another 500 this year, serving around 50,000 riders. Once all 21 of Taiwan’s scooter makers have agreed on which battery system to use, the government plans to build an additional 3,000 stations.

Gogoro scooters are currently available for sale in Taiwan and for rent in Paris and Berlin. The company plans to introduce its bikes for rent on the Japanese island of Ishigaki, Okinawa, in the first quarter of this year.

“The goal for this year is to make sure the technology is ready, make sure the product is ready, make sure the operations are ready,” Mr Luke said. “Once that’s all ready, we can take it to cities all around the world.”