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A few companies interviewed at the EV Taiwan trade show in Taipei describe the local economy as bad, which means affordable transportation becomes paramount, giving both electric and gasoline-powered scooters a big advantage over cars.
To be an automotive supplier here trying to feed components for production of electric cars and scooters, mostly for export, requires corporate stamina and a diverse portfolio.
Taiwan-based Chroma ATE was founded 30 years ago and retains a healthy business in automotive testing equipment to support forays into electric scooters (14 years ago) and inverters for electric vehicles (seven years ago).
Chroma supplied the inverter for theRoadster, but a different company has the contract for the higher-volume Tesla Model S.
William Chang, assistant to the president at Chroma, says it will be many years before Taiwan has the infrastructure and legislative blessing for electric cars, which are tested in certain regions only in pilot programs for now. The government is much more interested in electric buses.
On the scooter side of the business, Chroma sells electric models under the EVT brand, as well as components such as motors, controllers and chargers.
But the products are not for the domestic market. Instead, some 80,000 EVT e-scooters (currently price at NT$105,000 [$3,500]) have been exported over the past 14 years to Europe, where they remain popular, Chang says. The company sells about 5,000 a year but has capacity to make twice as many.
Having seen so many companies fail in the initial push for EVs, Chang says Chroma will stay engaged but continue to focus on its money-making vehicle-testing equipment. “If all you want to do is focus on the EV market, no, you can’t survive,” he says.
The market for e-scooters has yet to take off in Taipei, but Chang says it might happen within the next five years.
“The charging takes too long, and the charging is not very convenient,” he says, noting most people live in apartments. Like many others, Chroma’s EVT e-scooter recharges in about six hours, yielding a range of about 37 miles (60 km).
Some domestic scooter producers, such as Kuan Mei Plastic, have designed removable battery packs that can be toted indoors for charging in a conventional wall socket, nullifying the need for a dedicated infrastructure.
Kuan Mei has been around since 1970 and started out making plastic cargo cases mounted on a rack above the rear wheel.
In 2012, the company began manufacturing complete electric scooters and now can assemble 50 a month. Sales are just getting under way for the first model, the KOlá (priced at NT$65,800 [$2,193]), and a smaller e-bike goes on sale later this year.
Like others, Kuan Mei focuses on the export market and can make 100 scooters per month. Sales representative Joy Huang says the portable 48V lithium battery, which weighs 22 lbs. (9.8 kg), will last about three years before needing to be replaced. Top speed is 28 mph (45 km/h).