Electric vehicle creativity is built around new business models at CES

17 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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You wouldn’t mistake it for a McLaren, though.

Connected cars were everywhere at CES this year. A hot looking set of wheels was the platform of choice for showing off cutting edge technology. Plenty was written about it and there’s not much I can add. But very few of those vehicles – only 2 that I saw – were innovations in and of themselves.

Gogoro is an electric scooter that’s built around a swappable battery system. The idea is to set up and run kiosks around cities that have a bank of charging batteries. You ride up to the kiosk, take a few seconds to swap your used battery for one that’s fully charged, and keep on riding. The scooter is intended for densely populated places – San Francisco, for example – or huge mega-cities of 10 million people or more. Range is limited – about 100 km – but that’s plenty for urban transportation, particularly with quick access to topped up batteries. No price was announced, all the company reps would say is that it’ll be targeted to 20-somethings and cost in the same ballpark as a small gas powered scooter. Then you pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to topped batteries.

The Elio is a stranger beast. It’s an orange 3-wheeler – technically a motorcycle – and it runs on a 3-cylinder gasoline engine. At least for now. The business plan calls for first making a cheap gas powered ride – $6,800 is the target – and then waiting for the cost of electric propulsion systems to drop to where it’s possible to maintain that price point. In the meantime, the company has, presumably, built its brand reputation and worked out any mechanical kinks. It’s a way of positioning the company for the electric vehicle space of the future.

Neither vehicle is being sold yet, but reps for both companies said that production would begin later this year.