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Taiwan's 'game changer' e-bike battery charging stations could supercharge shift from fossil fuels

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People are turning to e-bikes and new battery cell charging stations to get around Taipei.
People are turning to e-bikes and new battery cell charging stations to get around Taipei.   -   Copyright  Canva
By Euronews and AFP

Every day, Aiden Lee joins the hundreds of thousands of people getting around Taiwan's capital Taipei on two wheels.

But when most of his fellow riders head to a petrol pump to refuel, he takes his e-motorbike to one of Taiwan's increasingly commonplace battery-swapping stations - tech, its creators say, could supercharge the shift from fossil fuels.

"Honestly, if it weren't for battery swapping - which by the way is even faster than filling up at a petrol station - I wouldn't use an electric bike," Lee, a marketing executive, said.

"I don't think I have the time to wait for the battery to charge".

Lee has used the rechargeable batteries provided by Taiwanese startup Gogoro since 2015, putting him among the 450,000 subscribers who swap an average of 330,000 batteries each day, according to the company's figures.

He says it costs about 10 per cent more than buying petrol each month.

Now eyeing regional expansion and a New York listing, Gogoro has more than 2,300 stations outside convenience shops or in car parks across Taiwan, where e-moped riders stop to exchange depleted batteries for freshly charged cells.

Previous attempts to roll out battery swaps have proved tricky, especially for electric cars.

Challenge for electric cars

Companies in China, the United States, and Israel have struggled to provide easy access to swappable batteries for e-cars, in part because of the high cost of building charging facilities and the time needed to charge much larger cells.

Instead of the four-wheeler infrastructure that needs to be built, our system is really like a vending machine that goes... where the consumer goes and where the consumer needs energy.
Horace Luke
Founder and chief executive, Gogoro

But the tech works better for mopeds, said Gogoro founder and chief executive Horace Luke, as the batteries and stations need not be so large.

"Instead of the four-wheeler infrastructure that needs to be built, our system is really like a vending machine that goes into different locations based on where the consumer goes and where the consumer needs energy," he said.

The facilities already outnumber petrol stations in four major Taiwanese cities, the company said, and vice-president Alan Pan told a news conference last week that the firm's goal for 2022 was to "surpass the number of petrol stations island-wide".

With more than 240 million battery swaps since 2015, Gogoro says it has kept about 360,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

"We are working on solutions that... create a new industry as the world looks now to sustainability and how to curb global warming and climate change," Luke told AFP in an interview.

According to government sales figures, e-bikes make up 21 percent of all motorbikes in Taiwan, with sales of traditional petrol models in double-digit decline annually.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Alexis Caraco