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.
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.