Piaggio HyS Hybrid Scooter First Look

October 31, 2007
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

With eco-friendly two-wheeled concepts on the rise  Piaggio may beat everyone to the production punch with its HyS gas electric hybrid scooters.
With eco-friendly two-wheeled concepts on the rise, Piaggio may beat everyone to the production punch with its HyS gas/electric hybrid scooters.

As the wise muppet sage Kermit the Frog once said, “It ain’t easy being green.”

But that hasn’t stopped motorcycle manufacturers from experimenting with environmentally-friendly concept vehicles. At the recent Tokyo Motor Show, Japanese manufacturers had all-electric, gas/electric hybrids, and even two-wheeled designs powered by fuel-cell technology on display. European manufacturer Piaggio has a gas/electric hybrid of its own in the HyS scooter. Unlike those prototype vehicles at the Tokyo Show, however, the Piaggio HyS is reported to be slated for 2008 production.

The HyS gas/electric system will be fitted to three scooter designs, the Vespa LX, Piaggio X8 and the innovative three-wheeled MP3. Piaggio released information on the HyS this summer, but we’re guessing the hybrid design and future production plans will take center stage for the manufacturer at the upcoming Milan Bike Show this November 5-11.

Piaggio describes the HyS as a “parallel” hybrid, incorporating the advantages of an internal combustion engine and electric motor. The gas-powered engine operates like the regular four-stroke powerplant in a conventional scooter, with the electric motor acting as a supplemental power source.

The HyS hybrid system incorporates a regular gas-powered scooter engine  mated to an electric motor attached to the rear wheel hub on the swingarm.
The HyS hybrid system incorporates a regular gas-powered scooter engine, mated to an electric motor attached to the rear wheel hub on the swingarm.

Piaggio explains the advantage of electric powerplants when it states “although they are not particularly fast on the open road, they develop maximum torque from standstill without any lag and without clutch and gears.” As such the HyS taps into its electric power when quick acceleration is needed, including from a dead stop and low-speed urban traffic situations – making it a perfect application for scooters. Piaggio claims the surge of electric power supplies “about 85% extra performance” when coupled with the gas engine.

The electric portion of the HyS equation charges while cruising at speed under regular gas-engine power. The batteries also gather power during braking and deceleration – power which is lost on conventional gas engines. Electronics and a drive-by-wire system control the engine/motor dynamic, making for optimal efficiency. This is evident in the HyS’s incredible fuel economy, which Piaggio claims is 60 kilos per liter – translating in our non-metricized American craniums as 141 mpg.

The Piaggio HyS hybrid system is seen here on the three-wheeled MP3  although the design has also been utilized on the Piaggio X8 and Vespa LX.
The Piaggio HyS hybrid system is seen here on the three-wheeled MP3, although the design has also been utilized on the Piaggio X8 and Vespa LX.

Kind of makes a Prius look like a Hummer with a leaky gas tank!

Riders control just how hybrid the HyS system runs, with a switch that shuffles between three hybrid modes and an all-electric option. The three options control the gas/electric power ratio, while the HyS can operate in all-electric mode for up to 12 miles (20 km). Not the greatest range, but sufficient for short commutes. The electric batteries are rechargeable from a 220V outlet, with Piaggio claiming a three-hour charge time. So, in theory, if you live next to a Three Mile Island reactor you could tell everyone you’re rolling into the office on a nuclear-powered scooter.

From the exterior, the HyS designs look almost identical to their non-hybrid siblings. The electric motor is attached to the rear wheel hub on the swingarm. The extra battery presence is stowed away in under-seat storage. While the loss of storage nullifies one of the advantages of a scooter, Piaggio promises the MP3 and X8 still have enough stowaway room for a helmet (although it doesn’t specify full-face helmet). The smaller 50cc Vespa LX will come with a top case for helmet storage.

The electric juice transmitted to the rear wheel is sourced when quick acceleration is needed. Riders can also switch the HyS to an all-electric setting.
The electric juice transmitted to the rear wheel is sourced when quick acceleration is needed. Riders can also switch the HyS to an all-electric setting.

The new scooters may not be for everyone, but this is not about quarter-mile times or horsepower numbers on a dyno. The HyS is about motorcycles and scooters as practical, green transportation options. Touting the environmental benefits of scooter travel, Piaggio’s subsidiary brand, Vespa, claims that “if Americans were to utilize one of the latest eco-friendly Vespa motor scooters for just 10% of everyday travel, we could reduce national fuel consumption by 14 million gallons of gas a day, and decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 324 million lbs a day.”

Just imagine if short-range urban commuters embraced the 140-mpg power of hybrid scooters. The impact would be sizable to say the least.

Stay tuned for more information on the HyS and other new two-wheeled designs when the Milan Bike Show begins November 5th.

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