Gogoro, the leading e-motorbike manufacturer in Taiwan, has announced a partnership with Chinese motorcycle companies DCJ and Yadea. DCJ is the largest gas-powered motorcycle company in China and has sold more than 2 million motorcycles each year. Yadea, meanwhile, is China’s biggest maker of electric two-wheelers, having sold more than 10 million motorcycles last year.
Gogoro will play a crucial role in DCJ and Yadea’s planned joint venture, Add New Energy, by providing its Powered by Gogoro Network (PBGN). Both DCJ and Yadea have invested US$50 million in the joint venture to develop electric two-wheelers with their own branding, but they will rely on Gogoro’s platform, especially its famed battery exchange system as well as its batteries, drivetrains and other components.
Founded in 2011, Gogoro released its first e-motorbike in 2015. The startup rose to fame partly through its unique battery swap system: instead of charging their batteries, users can simply swap their depleted batteries through its extensive network of battery swapping stations throughout Taiwan. As of late 2020, Gogoro has built 1,458 GoStations in Taiwan’s main cities, exceeding the number of Taiwan’s gas stations.
Building an ecosystem
In 2019, Gogoro decided to spin off its Gogoro Network into a separate entity. Similar to Foxconn’s EV strategy via its MIH open platform, Gogoro decided to build an open platform based on its battery swapping system, aiming to serve other new entrants of the e-motorbike market who want to build their own brands.
Gogoro’s move can be seen as a response to Swappable Battery Consortium for Electric Motorcycles. The consortium was announced in 2019 by four leading Japanese companies in the motorcycle industry: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. The group seeks to build a mutual and interchangeable battery standard and has been exploring the European market.
So far, Taiwanese motorcycle manufacturers such as Aeon, PGO Scooters and China Motor Corp. have joined Gogoro’s new alliance. Interestingly, it also includes the Taiwanese subsidiaries of Yamaha and Suzuki.
In April, the Gogoro Network made its first move abroad by partnering with India’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp. The two announced a joint venture that would focused on battery swapping. By gaining a foothold in two of the world’s largest e-motorbikes markets, Gogoro seems to be making headway.
Battery swap regaining popularity
Gogoro’s status has made it the linchpin to Taiwan’s national strategy of building a globally competitive e-motorbike industry. Apart from the necessity to secure key battery technologies, another main battleground is standard setting. In this sense, Gogoro’s entry into the Chinese market might help with the process.
As the landscape for EV charging standardization has already taken shape, the standardization of battery-swapping might have just begun for EVs and e-motorbikes alike. Tesla introduced the first battery-swapping technology in 2013, but dropped the idea in 2015 for various reasons. Back then, Elon Musk deemed the improving fast-charging stations to be a better alternative. “The Superchargers are fast enough.”
This year, however, Tesla had to deny rumors that it was re-considering the technology for its Chinese market. Battery swap is back into the spotlight thanks to Nio, a Chinese EV manufacturer that is a major competitor of Tesla.
Nio started its battery-swapping scheme in 2018 and proved its feasibility after successfully completing 500,000 swaps last year. It operates approximately 200 battery swap stations across China and is planning to reach 500 stations this year. Now other Chinese automakers have followed suit to build their own swapping stations, including Geely and Baic Motors.
With Nio entering the European market, even the French automaker Renault is considering battery swap.
The battle for standardization
Among many reasons, the resurgence of battery swap can be attributed to its complementary nature to charging stations. In fact, Nio offers both charging and swapping services. However, China’s industrial policy plays a role too, with favorable subsidies offered to EV makers with swappable batteries.
The Chinese government, together with China’s EV makers, has recently taken the first step to standardize EV battery swap, releasing a safety standard for it. With Taiwan having no viable EV champion to compete in the Chinese and global markets, the country might have already missed its chance for standard-setting.
Luckily, the standardization for e-motorbike battery swap has yet to seen concrete results, and Gogoro, with its Chinese partnership, might be Taiwan’s best chance to win this global race.