First Plug-in Hybrid in US: An Italian Scooter

Piaggio Group, the maker of Vespa scooters, said that it will sell a plug-in hybrid scooter in the United States by early 2010. If the company delivers on its plans, it will be the first plug-in hybrid vehicle on American roads—beating the Chevrolet Volt by six months or more.

The combined fuel economy will be approximately 140 miles per gallon. The acceleration will be rip-roaring fast: 0 – 60 in about 5 seconds.

“This is a big deal,” said Sebastian Schepis, chief editor of zoomilife.com and the founder of Zoomiscooters LLC, a San Diego-based company that creates and sells electric scooters and electric bicycles. In an interview with HybridCars.com, Schepis said, “The Piaggio scooter will be the first plug-in hybrid personal transporter. If it has a top speed that’s freeway legal, it will appeal to a lot of people who need to get on the freeway [for their commute].” Schepis also believes that the Piaggio plug-in hybrid scooter will have “street cred in green circles.”

Paolo Timoni, president and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas, committed to the early 2010 release date, in an interview earlier this month on the Fox News Car Report.

The Piaggio hybrid scooter will have several miles of all-electric range—perhaps as much as 10 to 12 miles according to past company statements. Drivers can top up batteries using a standard 110-volt electric outlet, and fill up a small gas tank to provide energy for a 125cc engine. The scooter will also use regenerative braking to recharge the batteries.

Vespa MP3

Like plug-in hybrid cars—which will roll out in small numbers beginning in late 2010—a plug-in hybrid scooter would have many of the benefits of an all-electric vehicle, but would eliminate the primary drawback: lack of driving range. “The best electric scooters have a range of 50 or so miles. You are always tethered to a plug,” said Schepis. “With a plug-in hybrid scooter, if you run out of electricity, you can always fill at the pump to get where you need to go.”

The scooter will use a parallel hybrid design—employing electric power, gas engine power, or a combination of both—similar to the technical approach used by most of today’s hybrid cars.

The three-wheel design will be based on Piaggio’s line of MP3 scooters, which have one wheel in the back and two in the front that tilt when the vehicle turns. Exact pricing has not been announced, but the Piaggio plug-in hybrid scooter is expected to cost about $8,000 to $9,000—the same price as the current top of the line MP3 models and the price for a number of all-electric scooters on the market.


  • david @ magic motorsports

    This is a fantastic Idea and is going to help get us off of imported oil quicker, now our society needs to be more cognizant of motorcycles, I was on my 250cc scooter and I am 6’3″ and 250lbs and The driver of the four wheel truck said he did not see me even though my scooter was bright candy apple red.

    We just got to fit scooters and motorcycles into our minds and be aware of them !

    And Piaggio makes a fabulous scooter, top quality !

    three cheers for Piaggio.

  • Bryce

    Awesome, I expect to see a couple of these running around Berkeley in the years to come.

  • Tim smi

    But is this environmentaly friendly at all. Do Vespas not produce more CO2 than the average Hummer? Great Idea but I know that most motorcycles and scooters actually polute more but get better gas mileage.

  • Anonymous

    good idea, but I will never ride a motorcycle, u only got one chances or accident, after any accident in a motorcycle, u are dead or paralyzed, its not worth it.

  • Allopatry

    “the Piaggio plug-in hybrid scooter is expected to cost about $8,000 to $9,000″

    Not affordable for most people unless this is their primary transportation. As I already own a car (and the insurance for same) , I can’t afford to shell out this much money for a scooter that I can only use for 5-6 months per year in a temperate climate

  • Charles

    No, Vespas do not produce more CO2 then any car, even a Prius. CO2 is directly proprietorial to L/100K (liters per 100 kilometers), if the same fuel is used. The carbon in the fuel gets converted to CO2. If the vehicle is in poor running order, some of the carbon could come out as CO, but that would be even worse then CO2. The worst MPG of a Vespa is about 65-70 MPG.

    In the USA Vespa only sells 4 stroke scooters which do no pollute near as much as 2 stroke scooters, but that does not make them clean machines. The Prius and other PZEV cars (like my Ford Focus) emit very little of the smog forming compounds that are traditionally thought of as pollution. Scooters and other small gas driven devices can produce a huge amount of smog forming pollution.

  • Need2Change

    Charles is correct concerning CO2. However, scooters and motorcycles pollute (non-CO2) the air over 10 times greater than the average new car. Motorcycles and scooters typically do not have pollution control equipment, such as cat converters, etc. That’s where you get the comparison between a scooter and a Hummer.

  • Bobbi

    The great thing about scooters is, not only do they run on little power, they’re also easy to park. (And, they look really cool.)

  • J-Bob

    Lane splitting ability, lower insurance, better performance than a V-8 Mustang, and if it maintains a 3+ gallon gas tank, 420+ miles between refueling… I’m finding little to complain about here ;)

  • Claude

    That’s why I painted my Burgman a glaring Sun Yellow.
    I’m anxious to see the new Piaggio. I hope they have some bright eye-catching paint jobs for us.

  • Al Capone

    Now That’s a Spicy Meatball!

  • mwv115

    Yeah, well tell that to all the people in Europe, Asia, South America, and practically any and every other country around the world. Yes, you need to be smart and drive smart. But come on! That is a ridiculous argument. You don’t want to get on a bike so be it. I have been in two falls on my motorcycles. Both I was going under 15mph. The first I was a little scraped up, but it was my own carelessness on a turn. I’m still driving and still believe a motorcycle or a scooter is great mode of transportation. I also recommend all drivers should take motorcycle safety classes to get their licenses. That’s what I did and it does make you a much better driver.

  • CENTRIDER

    I owned a Vespa years and years ago. Took it from Chicago to Baltimore, and around, DC, and back to Chicago. I think gas was around .359/gal. Or was that the price of cigs. In my 70′s now, I’m not likely to find myself on this scooter, tho I do ride a bike around 4,000 miles/year.

    The problem was running the premix in Chicago’s winter.

    Unless the scooter has a crankcase, premix is very polluting.

  • Azhar

    It seems to be a good scooter but it is rather expensive.

  • Mary

    I think this is a great idea for this scooter. I am contemplating buying a MP3 400 at the current time. I would definitely wait a while to see how these scooters do as a hybrid. Look what’s happened to the Prius………

  • Tomi

    Robimy tutaj mały teścik, zobaczymy jak wyjdzie :)

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