Swap & Go with Gogoro

Gogoro Starts Operations in Colombia — But I’m Not Too Optimistic This Time

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Four months after announcing its arrival in Colombia, Gogoro is here. The Taiwanese scooter company — widely known for being the first one to crack battery exchange stations — is finally selling its scooters and opening use of its first four stations in the city of Bogota in alliance with local rapid-charging company Terpel Voltex (Terpel is one of Colombia’s largest gasoline distributors).

This is bigger news than it looks like. Colombia’s car market may be minuscule, but, perhaps in compensation, its motorcycle market is huge, a behemoth averaging around 800,000 units a year. This makes it the third largest market anywhere west of Iran (as far as I could find), only behind Mexico and Brazil, yet presenting much larger per-capita sales than either of these two countries.

Given this context, Gogoro’s arrival should be a matter of celebration, but this time I’m feeling a bit pessimistic and wondering how much of a bang it will really make in the local market. And if you have read my work before, you probably already know the reason is related to cost, or at least part of the reason.

Colombia’s motorcycle market overview

In most of the developed world, motorcycles are usually thought of as leisure objects, but in the developing world, they’re tools. As such, affordable, reliable motorcycles dominate most if not all developing markets.

Colombia is no exception. Looking at the 20 most sold models in the country so far this year, 18 out of 20 have under 155cc engines and all but one of them can be purchased for under $3,300, with some going as low as $1,300. Most e-motorcycle companies are sensible to this and offer prices in this range for their own vehicles.

Not Gogoro. In all fairness, with its 7kW motor and 3.4kWh batteries, Gogoro’s motorcycles are far ahead of the EV competition, yet these specs come at a hefty cost: to get one of their scooters, you’ll need to pay $4,800 on top of the subscription to the battery exchange network.

And I’m worried, because I feel that’s a price that few people will be willing to pay.

Gogoro 2 Plus. Image from Gogoro.

A matter of design

Of course, there is a market in Colombia for $5,000 motorcycles and above, but it’s small (probably below 20,000 units a year) and focused on performance and touring bikes. When we look at ICEV brands that dominate this segment, we find Royal Enfield, Benelli, and upscale motorcycles from Yamaha, Suzuki, TVS, etc. In particular, there has been a switch from small cars to large motorcycles (300cc to 600cc) as preferred vehicles for travelling, due to small cars becoming more expensive and families getting smaller.

Gogoro’s scooters do not fit this niche. Don’t get me wrong: structurally, they seem a solid offer, with long(ish) autonomy, higher power than most of the competition, and decent cargo space. But they’re designed as a cute scooter (not even a Maxi Scooter), and I fail to find any similar ICE model at a similar price other than a Vespa, which barely sells over 100 units a year.

And delivery workers?

Another big hope for this model is delivery workers, who will get the most out of exchanging batteries and getting what’s essentially a full charge in less than a minute. But …

The main issue here is that delivery workers usually go for very affordable ICE motorcycles (those sub-$1,500 models I mentioned before), so paying over 3× that amount won’t be an easy sell.

But it gets worse. Gogoro’s subscription prices cost some $37 a month for 1,350 km, $60 for 2,300 km, and $74 for unlimited exchanges. With the current cost of gasoline in Bogota, those amounts would allow an ICE motorcycle to run for some 1,500 km, 2,400 km, and 3,000 km, respectively, making it actually more affordable than electricity in the first two cases, or nearly so. Sure, there will be savings on maintenance, but at triple the purchase cost, it will take a long time for the delivery workers to benefit from them.

And that’s why I’m feeling some pessimism. I feel Gogoro’s design and offer does not fit its price range, prices are not competitive with gasoline, and as such, I’m worried sales will not be high enough to sustain a dense and growing exchange network, as needed for this business model to prosper.

Image Gogoro

Final thoughts

I hope I’m wrong.

I hope there are people interested in these scooters, willing to pay the price, and that this will be the start of something bigger. I hope more and more local brands will jump to the chance and start using Gogoro’s tech, perhaps allowing for a true multi-brand
battery-exchange system throughout the country. If anything, that could make the difference and allow e-motorcycles to jumpstart growth.

Because, sadly, Colombia’s e-motorcycle market has been stagnant since 2019, with only 2,300 to 2,600 yearly registrations. Actual sales are much higher (because a lot of low-power e-mopeds are not registered, even if they should be), but they don’t make a dent in the huge ICE market yet. New electric brands coming into the country are aiming for design, power, and travel capabilities that allow their e-motorcycles a fair chance and/or are trying to offer prices that compete with the most affordable ICE motorcycles.

Gogoro’s proposal is radically different, and nothing like we’ve seen here before. May I be wrong. May they succeed where others have failed and bring growth to a segment that for too long has remained still.

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Juan Diego Celemín Mojica

Passionate for all things Latin American, I’ve been closely following the energy and mobility transitions since they started to become present south of the equator.

Juan Diego Celemín Mojica has 39 posts and counting. See all posts by Juan Diego Celemín Mojica