Indonesian ride-hailer Gojek plans to tap battery-swap stations for its drivers in Vietnam to charge electric motorbikes as swiftly as filling a gas tank.
The Indonesian company will team up with Selex, a Vietnamese startup that makes electric vehicles and battery networks already used by Grab and Lazada, according to an announcement on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the app maker said, Gojek drivers using Selex bikes will have home chargers and free access to Selex’s “battery ATMs,” or automated lockers where they swap out depleted batteries for fresh ones.
The addition of Gojek amplifies the network effects of Selex, which told Nikkei Asia it produces batteries compatible with rival scooters so more drivers will use its ATM-like chain of stations.
The thinking is that as more drivers rely on Selex’s battery ATMs, the company will expand its station locations, which in turn will attract more drivers.
Selex said it is courting motorists by offering speed and savings: It takes two minutes to change batteries, and they save 35% on energy and 50% on maintenance costs compared to combustion-engine motorbikes, the Hanoi-based startup said.
“This vehicle adheres to rigorous international standards for water resistance, purpose-built to maintain optimal mobility during heavy rainfall and endure water depths of up to one meter,” the joint announcement said. “It’s also engineered to navigate steep slopes with ease … making journeys on uneven terrains equally smooth.”
Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest motorbike markets and a tropical country with monsoon seasons whose flash floods often leave drivers trudging through knee-high water. Much of the market is going electric.
VinFast, an EV producer that listed on Nasdaq to eye-watering valuations in August, provides e-scooters to a competing ride-hailing platform, Be Group of Vietnam.
In addition to its Selex contract, Gojek also is sourcing EVs from Dat Bike in Vietnam and is investing in Electrum in Indonesia, which looks to produce up to 1 million electric motorbikes a year.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in July hopped on a scarlet Selex during a visit to the EV manufacturer when she praised its Vietnamese supply chain amid risks in China and its locally tailored action on climate change.
“The partnership will help Gojek Vietnam to further play its part in supporting GoTo Group’s commitment to achieving zero emissions and transitioning our fleet to 100% EVs by 2030,” said Gojek Vietnam’s general manager, Sumit Rathor. GoTo is the Indonesia-listed tech firm formed by Gojek’s merger with local e-commerce giant Tokopedia.
In August, refrigerated goods transporter ABA Cooltrans signed a deal to pilot 100 Selex bikes geared for cold-chain logistics, with plans to expand to 1,000 bikes in Vietnam in three years.
Selex would not disclose sales figures for its bikes, which can be modified to carry packages or people. They have a range of 150 kilometers and cost about USD 1,000, not including a battery-swap subscription, according to the company, which bills itself as Southeast Asia’s first EV maker to target last-mile delivery, though it also sells to consumers.
CEO Nguyen Nguyen, who once held a top-secret aerospace job, said the swapping network means buyers don’t pay the full cost of the battery upfront, but instead spread it out over time. He compared pay-as-you-go battery lockers to gas stations.
“We only pay for gas as we use it,” Nguyen said in an interview.
Gojek did not answer Nikkei’s questions about whether it would foot the whole EV bill or how many drivers were going electric. The EVs will be used to transport riders, food and packages, it said.
ADB Ventures, Schneider Electric Energy Access Asia and Vietnam’s Touchstone Partners have invested in Selex, which also has EV deals with Baemin, Viettel, and DHL.