Electric scooters come of (volt)age

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Text and photos by Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

WITH the launch of the production models of its new Ionex electric scooter line, it is clear that Taiwanese motorcycle manufacturer Kwang Yang Motoring Co. (KYMCO) is gunning for a spot alongside the leaders of the global electric vehicle (EV) movement.

Unveiled by KYMCO in Taipei, Taiwan, on June 12 were two of the 10 planned models under the Ionex line, namely the Many 110 EV and the Nice 100 EV. The introduction of the Ionex production models followed the scooters’ world preview program at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show held at the Japanese capital in March.

The Ionex is not only a new electric scooter line, but is also a mobility concept in which features like fast charging and easily detachable batteries are supported by a comprehensive network of power outlets and energy stations across Taiwan — addressing EVs’ range anxiety issues. Plus, the bikes are lighter and sleeker compared to their competitors.

The Many 110 EV, which has a top speed of 59 kph, sports retro styling suitable for younger riders while the Nice 100 EV, which can reach speeds of up to 45 kph, aims to attract a wider audience of electric scooter converts. Both bikes have a range of around 60 kilometers when fully charged.

‘ELECTRIC WITHOUT COMPROMISE’
At the Ionex Taipei International Conference, where the new scooters were unveiled, KYMCO general manager Danny Wang said the company is targeting an over 50% share of the electric vehicle market in Taiwan, and added KYMCO intends to become the “pioneer of the green movement so everyone can embrace electric without compromise.”

The Many 110 EV and Nice 100 EV each has a core battery and a five-kilogram “swapping battery,” which can be taken out of the scooter so this can be recharged while the core battery powers the vehicle. Further simplifying the process are sensor-based battery boxes that allow the bikes’ 50-volt lithium-ion batteries to be fully charged in as little as one hour.

These capabilities are backed by 1,500 Ionex fast-charging stations — where riders can easily rent swappable batteries for long-distance travel — that began operations in Taiwan on the day the Ionex scooters were launched. KYMCO promised to deploy 2,000 more Ionex energy stations by the end of 2019. In two more years, KYMCO targets 30,000 shared outlet spots to further eliminate riders’ concerns over electric scooters’ range.

Another smart feature of the Many 110 EV and Nice 100 EV is KYMCO’s proprietary Noodoe Navigation app, which simplifies and makes navigating streets safer for riders.

PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE
“If there’s a phone today that you would only have to charge once a week, what would it be like?” asked Allen Ko, KYMCO chairman, in an interview.

“First, it’s going to [cost] double the price. Second, it will be bigger and it will be heavier. Will you buy it because you only have to charge [it] once a week? I don’t think people will buy it. But for electric scooters, this is exactly what everybody is doing,” he said.

The executive noted EV manufacturers tend to make vehicles with longer distance capacities, but which become heavier and more expensive as a result.

This is not the case with the Ionex line, according to Mr. Ko, who — believing the world is at “the junction of the most important transformation of personal transportation” — aims the Ionex to be seriously considered as a practical alternative to conventionally fueled vehicles.

“We want the electric scooter to be in a way superior to a gasoline scooter,” he said, adding KYMCO does not target people who want to get an electric scooter for its environment-friendly quality.

“That’s not going to work. It’s not going to make electric scooters popular. While other electric scooters compromised their under-seat storage space for battery installations, we used innovative design to make it larger than ever. While others require tedious processes to remove the batteries, we made it not only delightfully easy, but also cool to watch. While other scooters can’t be ridden once the battery is removed, we let you continue riding and going about your business while you charge your battery. And while others suffer from the lack of proper charging infrastructure, we give [users] the power outlet network, charge point network and energy stations, so [they] never have to worry about range,” Mr. Ko said.

Though no commitment was made, Ionex scooters may soon be sold in the Philippines as KYMCO plans to unveil eight more Ionex models in the next three years.

“We will introduce regular-duty electric vehicles, as well as heavy-duty [models]. By the end of this year, we expect to have Ionex projects in more than 10 cities all over the world,” Mr. Ko said.