Piaggio to Sell Plug-In Hybrid Scooter

By dancurranjr On May 4th, 2009

hybrid_piaggio_scooter-thumbPiaggio, the Italian scooter maker, is planning to introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its three-wheel MP3 scooter for the American market by 2010.

According to Paolo Timoni, president and chief executive of Piaggio Group Americas, the new MP3 plug-in hybrid will have a 125cc engine and a lithium battery pack, yielding something like 250cc performance. The size of the battery pack is yet to be determined, but Mr. Timoni said Piaggio is estimating 140 mile-a-gallon fuel efficiency, which is considerably higher than the 70 to 80 m.p.g. possible from the company’s existing gas scooters.

The price for such efficiency? Mr. Timoni said the MP3 Hybrid, which is what the scooter will be called when it is released in Europe this summer, will cost between $9,000 and $10,000 when it arrives in the United States, probably around the first quarter of 2010.

“The concept came about because certain European areas are reserved for zero emission only,” said Mr. Timoni. “So if you have one here you can drive in from the New York suburbs in mixed mode, then cruise on Fifth Avenue in electric only.”

There are currently three conventional Piaggio MP3 scooters in the American lineup. The technology and details of the MP3 Hybrid are being kept under wraps for now.

Other motorcycle companies, including Honda and Yamaha, have shown hybrid concepts in the past. Honda, which showed a 50cc hybrid prototype in 2004, reportedly considered a hybrid motorcycle using a version of the new Insight’s powertrain.

According to Ben Nakamura, a Honda spokesman, “Of course, we are developing many kinds of motorcycles now, not only hybrid but also fuel cell and electric and so on.” Takeo Fukui, Honda Motor Company’s president and chief executive, said in his year-end remarks in December that Honda “is currently developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation.”

Kevin Andrews, a brand manager for Vespa and Piaggio, predicted that more of the Piaggio hybrid scooters will be sold in Europe because of the sheer volume of scooter sales there. But the popularity of hybrid cars in the United States may mean that hybrid cycles will grab a bigger share of the smaller market here, he said.

SOURCE: New York Times

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