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The worlds first folding electrical scooter comes from The Netherlands and is called GiGi. The startup from Amsterdam is not the first to announce an e-scooter. But this one you can actually take inside the office, trains, trams or your house. We visited founder Stijn Enneking to talk about the process of getting GiGi to become reality. And to take the actual thing for a spin, off course.
It quickly becomes clear that you need to be comfortable getting some weird looks while riding the GiGi. It stands out from everything else on the bicycle path. With its boxy looks and small wheels it’s kind of hard to look cool, no matter how hard I try. On the other hand I feel sorry for the girl on the Vespa that stops besides me at the red light. Her scooter is taking up three times as much space, makes four times more noise and smells like a traffic jam from the ‘60s. When the light turns green, me and my GiGi have already crossed the road, while she is still slowly yet loudly spluttering to gain speed.
As long as the ride is not too long, GiGi does the job. With the tiny seat, small wheels and minimal suspension you feel every bump in the road. And steering is very direct, the short wheelbase makes the scooter very maneuverable. Doing a 5 kilometer trip is a breeze and at no point uncomfortable. I imagine that is the distance most people will use the GiGi for. With the average range of 25 kilometers (or 35 for the version with larger battery), you won’t go beyond small trips in the city. Easier than by bicycle, way faster than by car.
Folding Dutch Design
GiGi is sold as typical Dutch Design. Even though it looks like you’re riding an oversized LEGO-bike, it certainly is experimental and innovative. Thanks to the hinge in the middle of the frame, Gigi folds up to roughly half its size. As a full grown adult you can comfortably ride around, yet it still fits in the trunk of your car. Talking to GiGi founder Stijn Enneking, the choice for electric propulsion was mostly practical. “We wanted a vehicle that you could take anywhere. With a combustion engine, it would not be allowed in public transport. And you don’t want any oil or fuel leaking in the trunk of your car either. By going electric, you can even take it with you inside the coffeeshop when you grab a drink.”
Carrying the GiGi
Folding up the GiGi is as easy as the slick leaflet or website says it is. There’s four bright yellow parts on the vehicle that you need to use. Two for the handlebars, one to release the joint in the middle and one to secure it in folded position. It leaves you with a package the size of a big Samsonite suitcase and 32 or 33,5 kilograms in weight, depending on the battery size. It is not easy to carry around, but Enneking did his research: “I’ve looked at how people use their folding bicycles in trains. They only fold it once the train arrives. There’s a only a very short moment when they actually lift it.” For that very short moment, the GiGi is made just light enough.
From the ground up
Achieving that weight was no easy task. Enneking has been obsessing over details for years. Almost every part of the GiGi has been custom designed. Even the tires are specially made. “Existing tires of this size were made for higher speeds. But GiGi will never reach 80 or 90 kilometers an hour. So we could choose a different material, shaving off a few grams in the process.” Developing the hinge in the middle seemed to be the biggest challenge, since it required to be both durable and light. Nothing like that existed yet. Enneking found a production partner in Govecs, which has a specialized production facility near Wroclaw in Poland. Enneking: “It is very state of the art. And we can say GiGi is made in Europe!”
Partners and funding
Made in Europe, designed in The Netherlands. Enneking’s founding partners of C10 Design are experienced in the field of industrial design. The money came from an American business partner from Enneking from previous ventures. The funding was enough to keep the company running during the design-stage and beyond. “Besides the one investment, we never had to go to banks for extra money.”
What about Bolt and Gogoro?
It looks like GiGi launches at just the right time. Local government in Amsterdam is looking for ways to get the most polluting mopeds and scooters banned. Some pretty cool initiatives are waiting to take their place. The AppScooter of Dutch startup Bolt was launched as the ‘Tesla on two wheels’, but hasn’t yet left the phase of just looking promising. And Gogoro from Taiwan, with its swappable batteries, are still nowhere to be found in the city. Enneking: “We deliberately stayed out of publicity till we finished development. Product development is very hard, and we’ve had several setbacks and delays. But now we’re ready to ship.” GiGi’s are for sale for €3.995 and that is the major advantage GiGi has over their competitors. You can actually drive one today. If you are in The Netherlands, that is.
Europe has to wait
Enneking: “GiGi is road legal in all European countries. But we’re launching only in The Netherlands right now. It is not realistic to think we can take on the entire world at once.” The ambition for expansion is there, the resources aren’t. “If we want to get ready for export, we’ll need new funding and if possible a new strategic partner.”