Published on October 18th, 2013 | by Important Media Cross-Post


Scooter That Can Turn A Smartphone Into A Dashboard

October 18th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Gas2.
By Christopher DeMorro.

terra-3While much of the focus has been on electric cars, two-wheeled electric vehicles actually stand to gain much more from electrification. America already has a few top-notch electric motorcycle manufacturers, and a Japanese startup called Terra Motors hopes to bring an innovative electric scooter to market, using smartphones to serve as the vehicle’s dashboard and infotainment center.

It’s a clever way to cash in on the popularity of smartphones in developed countries, though the $4,500 Terra Motors A400i is actually aimed at the Southeast Asia market, where scooters are far more popular than cars. While $4,500 is more than the cost of the Tata Nano, Terra thinks it could be shipping as many as 100,000 of these electric scooters per year by the end of 2015.

Why? Because their goal is to hit buyers in the top 2% to 3% of the population, which represents hundreds of millions of potential buyers. Smartphones are the hot accessory among many of the growing Asian middle classes, and a $4,500 electric scooter is pretty much the ultimate accessory.

Using a Bluetooth connection, an iPhone can be placed in a special dock, where it displays things like battery level, and even GPS directions. A small LCD screen is included for info like speed, and while it only fits iPhones for now, Terra plans to expand offerings to include other kinds of smartphones.

But even better than the smartphone connectivity is an easily replaceable battery system. Details are still being worked out, but it could allow users to drop off depleted batteries, and then pick up a fully charged one, at store locations like 7-11. Each battery is good for about 40 miles, and recharges in 2 to 3 hours from a normal outlet. The A4000i has a top speed of 40 mph, so at full tilt you can get about an hour of driving out of this bad boy, more than enough for most local trips.

Could a similar vehicle catch on in the U.S? I don’t see why not; cars are increasingly uncool to young people, and unaffordable regardless, but a $4,500 scooter to fit your smart phone? Sounds like a bargain if you live in a place like New York City or San Francisco.

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  • Wayne Williamson

    I agree with both the other posters, adding a phone dock to a scooter doesn’t make much sense. I do think theirs would sell in the USA at the 4500 dollars specified. Its similar to other “nice” gas ones. Another 10 miles an hour would be nice though(ie top speed of 50mph)

    • Kyle Field

      I agree…I would definitely consider one at 4500 in the US. I paid 2200 new for my gas powered aprilia scarabeo which gets 85mpg and am eagerly looking forward to an electric 🙂

  • Kyle Field

    I like the removable battery but tying the scooter to a specific model phone or technology seems wonky. A scooter is something that should last 20 years or more and who can say what my phone will look like in 20 years. Good stuff 🙂

    • Kiwiiano

      Given the speed with which phones are superseded, you’d probably leave your ‘old’ phone permanently in the bike. I would expect Android options to appear promptly, but don’t know about Blackberry, Nokia or Windows- whatever.
      The concern I have is about the weather-tightness of the “special dock”. Phones don’t like being left out in the rain.

      • Kyle Field

        I agree that leaving the phone with the bike would be the logical option and thought of that…but that also leaves you stuck with a monthly data plan for your scooter which negates the point of having an integrated phone (not having to pay for another data plan, having all your current music, navigation info, etc).

        • Kiwiiano

          Hmmm… data cost point taken. Of course you don’t NEED a data plan for the old phone to work as a dashboard, the only feature you’d lose would be GPS, but it is going to get a bit silly. A problem that will arise will be if the future phone manufacturers change dock couplings, as Apple did with the Lightning connector. May be less of a problem in Europe where they have standardised on the USB format, although that also stifles innovation.

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