'India holds the potential to be an electric vehicle export hub'
Autocar Professional’s Shruti Mishra and Ketan Thakkar interviewed Horace Luke Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Gogoro, who delved into the potential of the Indian market, its engagement with government agencies on utilising swappable solutions to transition the two-wheeler market with safety at its core and how alliances and partnerships will be essential in accelerating the shift towards EVs.
52-year-old Horace Luke has had an interesting and diverse career. Luke has a smartphone background and has served as chief innovation officer at HTC, where he played an instrumental role in leading the company's transformation from a white label hardware manufacturer to one of the most desirable and innovative mobile phone brands in the world. From 2006 to 2011, while at HTC, Luke led the product strategy from concept to delivery, garnering a variety of industry awards, including the GSMA's "Best Smartphone of the Year" in 2010 for the HTC Hero and the GSMA's 2011 Device Manufacturer of the year. Prior to HTC, Horace spent a decade with Microsoft, where he led product ideation and brand development for a variety of Microsoft's most important franchises, including the first-generation Xbox, Windows XP, and Windows Mobile. Luke also served at Nike, where he played a key role in brand development across several progressive brands.
Excerpts from an interview with Horace:
What’s your view on the Indian market and what role could it play in your global operations?
I feel that India is a place that needs us the most with the most progressive approach towards electrification and pricing. The way India has embraced industrialisation, I have a strong feeling that it holds the potential to be an electric vehicle export hub.
Taiwan is a good place to develop technology, but Taiwan does not have the benefits to do preferential trade agreements (PTA) and other trade agreements with the outside world. But here in India, we have the scope to make heavy investment in Foxconn to solidify Gogoro supply chain base.
Plus, Taiwan sells around 7,00,000 vehicles annually whereas India sells 60 million vehicles which is 20 times of the volume of Taiwan.
In Taiwan, we have a 50cc bike that runs about 45 kms using one battery, 100cc, 125cc and 150cc bikes that use two batteries along with three-wheelers that use two batteries. Then we have three-wheelers using half a tonne of cargo using three batteries. This means that ours is an open platform that acts as an enabler for all kinds of auto makers to refill their vehicles in less than six seconds. In Taiwan we have spent $0.5 billion on networking to support about 5,00,000 riders today.
Could you tell us about your partnership with Zypp?
From December, we will start with six swapping stations in Delhi and have about 100 vehicles on the road where we will solicit batteries from Zypp. We will also prepare some vehicles for the media for test-ride and actually see what the swapping experience is like.
Currently in Taiwan, we are doing about 130 million swaps annually for half a million riders at 2,400 locations which is about 10,000 cabinets. The per day count is 3,50,000 swaps a day. We have cumulative 360 million battery swaps. Our battery pack is a computer which works on a powerful software enclosed inside a hardware to ensure that things are managed in real time. The Gogoro battery swapping network is an open platform that combines connectivity, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
We are able to check the technical specifications of how the batteries are operating and intervene appropriately.
In the initial phase we are collecting data, calibrating our technology, and then building on the use case of the population in India to refine our system so that we can actually get ready for the country.
We have been engaging with policy makers in India proactively. Over the past three years we have been present in most of the technical companies to contribute in the constructive manner.
Our solution is about collecting great data, calibrating our technology, and really based on the use case of the population that is in India, to basically refine our system so that we can actually get ready for India.
With India we are aiming to bring products for the logistics sector and our target is to decarbonize the sector first. In the second stage we will start commercialising solutions with Hero MotoCorp and other partners.
Given the recent fire incidents, EVs have faced a negative backlash in the two-wheeler space, what is your view, how safe are your vehicles?
All our batteries are BIS certified and we are open to work with government agencies for safer deployment of EVs in India. We are actively talking to NITI Aayog and Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) and getting their feedback to fine-tune our operations.
If the battery fires continue to happen there is a confidence erosion in the consumer's mind. We have studied the Indian market for four years and we'll be investing a lot of energy into joining hands with the Indian government to roll out standards in safety.
When we started Gogoro the idea was to create an end to end solution for EVs to form a sustainable future. Every decade new technology comes along and makes our lives better. If one word that describes our day-to-day work at Gogoro is sustainable technology that is safe.
Across the world 10 OEMs including Yamaha and Suzuki Taiwan are using our battery swapping technology in 47 different models.
You have a global alliance with Foxconn, Hero MotoCorp in India and you have numerous alliances globally as well, what is the role of partnerships for Gogoro’s future growth roadmap?
The battery hardware is all designed by us, but we use Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer to localise battery technology here in India.
In June 2021, Foxconn and Gogoro began collaboration on multiple projects including smart batteries, vehicle engineering and manufacturing. By integrating Foxconn’s strong manufacturing, global capabilities and top quality, Gogoro is focusing on its own product design, technology development, marketing and branding, expanded distribution and customer service channels.
Through this partnership we are combining our urban battery swapping and smart vehicle technologies with Foxconn’s extensive global manufacturing capabilities to enable mass distribution of Gogoro’s smart battery swapping ecosystem and vehicles.
In simple terms, our manufacturing partner is Foxconn. So, we are teaming up our technology with their manufacturing investment and capability in India to really localise and create high value technology manufacturing.
For electric scooters, the market demand will decide whether Gogoro goes with its India partner Hero MotoCorp or we set up our own manufacturing unit. Scalability is not an issue for us, rather we focus first on market acceptance. We are here to serve the market and electrification takes patience. We won’t take shortcuts.
How many vehicles can one Go charging station service?
The solutions that we are using in India come with 64 hours of power-back-up and one station can comfortably serve the needs of 200 vehicles.
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