In December of 2015 I became the first foreigner in Taiwan to buy a Gogoro Smartscooter—most likely still the only one—and it's been an exciting experience.
Yes, I'm tooting my own horn a bit, but as I pointed out in my previous article, the real reasons I got behind Gogoro have far less to do with the actual product than with the by-product. I didn't just buy a fancy scooter, I bought cleaner air and quieter streets. I invested in the energy revolution with the hopes that it inspires others to join me. That being said, the product itself is what I experience daily. I've ridden my Gogoro thousands of kilometers at this point, which has allowed me get to know the product much better. I have plenty of positive things to say, and a few slightly negative things as well.
Here’s what I love about riding my Gogoro so far:
1 - The Sound it doesn't make
Gogoro is so quiet, it’s like zipping around on a magic cloud. It's comforting compared to my old scooter. What’s interesting is how much more aware of noise you become when you aren't the one making it. I've realized just how loud and annoying all those other scooters are, and how much nicer of a city Taipei would be if even half of them were Gogoros. The Gogoro is not silent of course, it makes a slight whirring sound that I’ve become fond of. I feel like I’m riding a Star Wars Speeder Bike.
2 - The Speed
My Gogoro is fast. No, it’s not the fastest scooter in the city—those expensive, modded out gas scooters can still beat me sometimes. But that's not a fair comparison when you look at how much those guys spend to get there. Out-of-the-box the Gogoro is still faster than most and incredibly zippy and fun to ride.
3 - Battery Swapping
Almost everyone I know still asks me how long it takes to charge my Gogoro, which means they still don’t understand that I don’t charge it at all. The battery swapping system is probably one of the most innovative and convenient–and least understood–aspects of owning a Gogoro. The stations are everywhere, and easy to find on the app. It really does only take a few seconds to swap them, and it’s fun. When I have a friend with me, we play a little betting game where we try and guess which batteries will pop out of the GoStation. Each of us puts our hands on a different battery– whoever guesses correctly, pays the other $100nt.
A lot of people complain about the fact that you can’t charge Gogoro at home–which is something that might change soon–but the swapping system is so convenient and smart, I can’t understand why anyone would prefer home charging. Once people actually experience it, they get it.
Of course, the other thing I love about battery swapping is that I am swapping batteries instead of filling up with gasoline. That's something to feel great about everytime.
4 - The Smart Key
I love that I don’t need a traditional key anymore, and I can’t wait for the time when all old-fashioned keys are a thing of the past . I actually leave my “Key” in my pocket and start it without even taking it out. I also like that the “Key” opens the seat compartment as well.
The Gogoro app allows us to start–and open the trunk–with our phones as well, but to be honest, I feel the Smart Key is more convenient.
5 - The Temperature
It gets hot in Taipei in the summer. The fact that I don't have a hot engine boiling beneath me gives me chills of joy. This is something you can only appreciate after spending a summer in Taipei, on an old gas scooter, sweating your ass off while sitting at red lights. Those old scooters give off a tremendous amount of heat, and when it’s almost 40c degrees outside, you feel it. In fact, I’ve never even heard mention of this "gem" of a benefit. Perhaps that's because most of us bought our Gogoro's in the winter and haven't had a chance to fully appreciate it yet.
Since there’s nothing burning inside, there’s nothing burning outside. I also never have to worry about my leg accidentally brushing up against a hot muffler. If you think this isn’t a problem, you haven’t seen all the young people with leg-burn scars in Taipei.
Here're some of the things I don’t love:
1 - Paying by Kilometer
I updated this section on April 21, 2016
This is absolutely the worst–in my opinion– aspect of the Gogoro owners experience. I love the battery swapping idea, but it was only after I purchased my Gogoro that I realized my subscription simply gives me monthly “kilometers.". For example, on a basic plan, I would get 100 kilometers each month. It doesn’t matter if I swap batteries once, or five times during these 100 kilometers. This is nice if–for some reason–I always wanted fully charged batteries in my scooter, but it eliminates any incentive for me to save energy. Why would I used smart mode, or drive slower to save electricity under this model?
The other major problem I have with this system—one that is becoming painfully clear as summer approaches—is that I have to pay my monthly fee regardless of whether I drive my allotted KMs or not. If the weather is nice, and I choose to ride my bike for a month while leaving my scooter at home, I still pay $800nt. That's just ridiculous in my opinion, and further supports the idea of paying for swaps, not KMs.
This is–I suspect–is also the reason Gogoro is reluctant to make their “GoCharger” actually available for home charging. Under this subscription model, home charging is entirely redundant.
There are a few other benefits to this model as was pointed out by my father who visited me recently, and had the opportunity to experience Gogoro himself. With this model we, the users, aren't responsible for the maintenance of batteries. If a battery malfunctions, or damages our scooters, we are not responsible for it because we don't own the batteries. This is a pretty valuable benefit that may proof it's real worth over time.
I still wish Gogoro could involve some of us users in a workshop to help figure out a better system for this though, as it's having an unusually large impact on my overall experience at the moment.
2 - Lack of power
Not speed power, or energy power, I'm talking about strength power. I’ve taken my Gogoro up Yangmingshan mountain many times so far with no problems whatsoever. However, those were times I was riding alone. The one time my friend saddled up behind me for a trip up Yangmingshan, I seriously wondered if the Gogoro was going to make it. I was honestly a bit embarrassed as well—all my bragging about Gogoro was falling short of expectations. To be fair, these were moments on the steepest sections of the mountain. Most of the time the scooter did just fine.
I spend 95% of my time riding in the city, so in reality, this rarely presents a problem for me. I also believe that this will be improved with later versions and motor improvements.
3 - Seat shut-offs
Every time I open the seat–which is often–the scooter shuts off and I have to turn it back on. This isn’t a big deal, but it can be frustrating more often than you’d think. The funny thing is, that this feature can be quite convenient as well. Instead of using the key to turn off my Gogoro–after parking for instance–I simply open the seat from the dashboard to turn it off. There should simply be an option that allows me to toggle this mode in the app.
4 - The Sounds
Not the sounds that the Gogoro makes as it goes–which are perfect–but the sounds it makes as you turn it on and off. These customizable sounds are cool at first, and other people like them as well, however they can get a bit annoying after a while. I just wish there was a “silent” option–like most cameras have these days–that could turn all these little noises off.
The solution for me at this point is to set my Gogoro sounds to the "Kito" setting. Kito sounds are soft and quite; for the most part it's barely audible, which I like.
Another problem I have with sounds involves the slow driving sound that can be turned on and adjusted. The feature was a very smart thing to include, and I'm glad they did. At low speeds the Gogoro is very quiet, and the slow driving sound is meant to help warn others that you are coming. I live near a busy market and turned this on almost immediately. The problem is that it’s not loud enough for people to hear, making it virtually useless. This could easily be fixed by giving us a volume control for the sound.
5 - Smart mode
Ok, so I actually really like Smart mode, I just think they named it incorrectly and are framing it the wrong way. Smart mode is an energy conserving mode that slows the scooter down substantially and is on by default each time you start Gogoro. Gogoro accelerates very quickly with this mode off–sometimes too quickly–which is why I find myself toggling this mode on and off quite a bit when I ride my Gogoro–in busy traffic, around pedestrians, and in small alleys. In my own head I think of this button more as a low-speed mode than a smart mode, and since there isn’t really any incentive to save energy with a smart mode, I think they should simply rename it "low-speed” mode or something similar.
Overall, I’m very happy with my Gogoro purchase. I’ve been enjoying the ride and I still support and appreciate what Gogoro is trying to do. They seem to be doing good business these days–the shop is always full of freshly sold Gogoro's. I hope this trend continues, and old-fashioned oil burning scooters quickly go out of fashion.
The first version of anything is never perfect. The first iphone was a piece of crap compared to the second, and even Telsa has had their issues. ( who, btw is now planning to open up a showroom in Taipei, right next to the Gogoro showroom ) There are things Gogoro could be doing better, but I think they know that, and are listening to us. What they need now are more brave people to step up and support them, and provide them with the means to keep doing what they’re doing.
What do you think? Agree with me? Disagree with me?
Leave me a comment and please share my article if you enjoyed it. :)
Oh, and enjoy some of the photos I took of me and my dad on our Gogoro trip to Pinglin and around the north east coast of Taiwan: