Published March 09, 2009
The Chevy Volt just had a little of its thunder stolen.
Paolo Timoni, President and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas — maker of the Piaggio and Vespa brands of motor scooters — confirmed to FOXNews.com that the company is planning to sell a plug-in hybrid version of one of its vehicles in the United States starting in early 2010. If the gas-electric scooter makes it into showrooms on schedule, it will be the first plug-in hybrid vehicle to go on sale in the U.S., beating the Volt to market by several months, at least.
During an exclusive interview on FOXNews.com's "The Strategy Room," Timoni told the "FOX Car Report LIVE!" program that Piaggio is currently going through the certification process for the scooter with the National Highway and Transportation Safety Association. It is also scheduled to go on sale in Europe later this year.
According to Piaggio, the three-wheel scooter will travel several miles on battery power alone, and get up to 141 miles per gallon overall, which would make it one of the most fuel efficient vehicles ever made. Timoni misspoke during the interview when he said it would go 40 miles on battery alone, a Piaggio spokesperson saying that final specifications won't be known until the scooter is officially homologated for sale. Previous statements from the company regarding the European version have pointed toward an all-eletric range of about 12 miles.
The parallel hybrid design combines a 125cc engine and an electric motor in a similar way to the powertrain in the Toyota Prius, and should be capable of accelerating the scooter from 0-60 mph in about 5 seconds. It can be charged from a standard 110 volt electrical outlet, and uses a combination of regenerative braking and several adjustable hybrid modes to charge the battery on the move, balancing performance and efficiency to the tastes of the rider.
The hybrid is based on Piaggio’s line of MP3 scooters which have one wheel in back and two in the front that tilt when it turns, much like a traditional two-wheel motorcycle. The design gives it added stability at speed, and allows it to stand up without a kickstand when stopped.
Pricing has not been set, but Timoni says to expect the MP3 hybrid to cost $8,000-$9,000 when it hits showrooms next year, about the same price as the current top of the line MP3 models.