Piaggio MP3 Hybrid Scooter Debuts

July 9, 2009
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.

The concept surfaced two years ago  but now its a reality as Piaggio introduces its MP3 Hybrid scooter - a gas electric hybrid coming to the US in 2010.
The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid combines the best of IC and electric efficiency to achieve claims of 140 mpg.

European manufacturer Piaggio has officially introduced its MP3 Hybrid scooter. The gas/electric hybrid concept first debuted in 2007, when it was dubbed the HyS and proposed to be fitted on a number of Piaggio scooter models, including the MP3 as well as more conventional two-wheeled designs. Now a production reality, the MP3 Hybrid will hit the European streets using a conventional 125cc internal combustion engine mated to a brushless electric motor. The MP3 Hybrid is slated to cross the Atlantic as a 2010 US model.

Hybrid Scooter Power

The MP3 Hybrid scooter features what Piaggio calls a “parallel” hybrid drive: a 57 x 48.6mm 4-stroke single-cylinder internal combustion engine and brushless electric motor. The IC engine delivers power via CVT, with the electric motor piggy backed directly onto the rear drive hub. The MP3’s engine management system syncopates the interaction of both power sources for optimal efficiency.

The IC engine delivers power via CVT  with the electric motor piggy backed directly onto the rear drive hub.
The new Piaggio scooter uses a 125cc 4-stroke and a brushless electric motor located in the rear wheel hub.

The hybrid drive takes advantage of IC and electric power’s natural strengths. The electric motor delivers immediate torque (11 lb-ft claimed), ideal for boosting acceleration (by up to 85%). The IC engine provides extended range, high-speed cruising performance and while running charges the Lithium-ion batteries powering the electric system. The MP3 Hybrid engine management also recovers energy normally wasted during deceleration and braking, storing it in the batteries.

Plug-In Scooter

The MP3 Hybrid features four riding modes – two hybrid and two electric-only (one being a reverse) – selected by the rider via a “Hy Tech” button on the right handlebar. The two hybrid modes are Hybrid Charge and Hybrid Power – the former ensuring the battery is fully charged while the latter is designed for maximum riding performance.

Selecting full electric mode shuts down the IC engine entirely  transforming the MP3 Hybrid into a quiet ZEV  Zero Emission Vehicle .
Planned for a 2010 US debut, the MP3 Hybrid is yet to have an MSRP affixed but potential buyers will benefit from a 10% federal tax credit for purchasing a plug-in vehicle.

Selecting full electric mode shuts down the IC engine entirely, transforming the MP3 Hybrid into a quiet ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle). And a plug-in ZEV too, with the Lithium-Ion batteries fully rechargeable in about three hours (Piaggio claims 85% charge is achieved within two hours).

Although Piaggio PR doesn’t specify its electric-mode range, the HyS prototype touted 12 miles. If this holds, some short-distance commuters could use the Hybrid purely as a plug-in electric scooter.

Green Efficiency

The Hybrid’s efficiency nets incredible claims of 140 mpg. With its 3.17 gallon tank, that’s a range of nearly 450 miles between fill ups. Ridden in 65% hybrid mode and 35% electric mode, Piaggio reckons a 50% reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions over standard IC scooters of comparable size. Using the MP3 in electric-only mode further enhances its green credentials. On top of its environmental benefit, the electricity costs per mile are much cheaper than gasoline.

A left side speedometer shares space with a right-side gauge showing battery charge on top and fuel level on bottom.The battery pack takes up the space normally reserved for underseat storage.
The MP3 Hybrid features a battery charge gauge (above) recharged by an underseat wall plug-in.

MP3 Leanings

The hybrid powerplant is housed in the leaning, three-wheeled MP3 chassis – itself an innovative design. The initial HyS prototype appeared to have very little left-side clearance, due to the extra width of the electric motor located in the rear drive. On the Hybrid it appears the centerstand includes a protective arm that would scrape well before the rear hub area. Speaking of a centerstand, the Hybrid doesn’t always need one to park as it carries over the MP3 range’s front suspension lock system, stabilizing the front wheels and allowing the scooter to balance on its three tires unassisted.

Traditional underseat storage space houses the lithium battery pack and a recharge plug. The Hybrid does, however, maintain storage for at least a half-helmet in a trunk-like rear compartment. Other quirks not found on the regular MP3 is the instrument console, where a left side speedometer shares space with a right-side gauge showing battery charge on top and fuel level on bottom.

MP3 Hybrid US Bound

Earlier this year, Piaggio America’s CEO Paolo Timoni announced the hybrid MP3 would be available in the US by the first quarter of 2010. MP3 sales could bolstered by the 10% federal tax credit incentive for plug-in vehicles passed in the 2009 economic stimulus package. Plug-in incentives are also available in numerous states, including California.

No official MSRP for the future US model is named, though some speculation places the figure around the $10K mark. It is available in Pearl White.