Piaggio MP3 300ie Hybrid

Piaggio makes a Hybrid from their MP3. Costa thinks that they did it the right way. Let’s take a look

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Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Piaggio.
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There’s no doubt that technological advances have been making huge leaps in recent years.

Not all of that technology has real-world merit, but with the advent of hybrid technology into the world of motorcycles, it brings with it the ability to improve a vehicle’s everyday performance, while reducing fuel emissions.

As a result I think it’s the green technology that has the most potential for becoming mainstream — and eventually affordable — even in motorcycles.

For the uninformed, a hybrid uses a combination of internal-combustion and electric power to propel it. Piaggio introduced hybrid technology into the world of production motorcycles (well, the ones with three wheels anyway) with their MP3 Hybrid 125ie back in 2009.

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It’s a regular MP3 with an additional electric motor.

However, they are also going to be adding more usability with a larger-displacement 300ie, which will be out in 2011.

The 300ie features a more powerful, liquid-cooled, 278 cc four-valve single that claims 22 hp (25 hp in hybrid mode) and will ultimately prove more versatile than the 14 hp 125.

It also has the most practical application of hybrid technology I’ve seen yet, which is why I thought it would make a good focus for the Technobabble section.

More importantly, it’s also being considered for importation into North America and is currently running the course for EPA certification Stateside (which means we’ll likely see it Canuckside in the near future, too).

HOW IT WORKS

mp3_hybrid_cad.jpg

And God inserted a Hybrid motor …

The MP3 Hybrid uses a parallel hybrid drive system that uses an electric motor to supplement the gas engine when needed. But the beauty of Piaggio’s parallel system is that it is a full hybrid that can run on the gas engine alone, the electric motor alone, or a combination of the two.

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Feel at one with the happy windmills!

This differs from mild hybrid systems – like the ones used in Honda cars that do not offer electric-only operation but use the electric motor only as an assist to the gas engine to increase power, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

In the MP3, a 2.6 kW (3.5 hp) electric motor is used to assist the gas engine when accelerating from a stop or when accelerating briskly, thus boosting  performance by up to 30 percent.

This reduces fuel consumption and emissions to lower levels than if the MP3 was using the 278 cc engine alone, while providing the performance level of a conventional 400 cc scooter. The electric motor can also be used to power the MP3 solely for a range of up to 20 km.

Using a ratio of 2/3 hybrid mode and 1/3 electric mode, the MP3 claims up to 2.0L/100 km (141 mpg). This gives it a theoretical range of 600 km from its 12-litre gas tank.


ELECTRIC SUPERCHARGER

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Keep ahead of the bigger electric vehicles – trams!

It comes with four rider-selected operating modes, two hybrid and two electric. In Hybrid Power mode, both power sources propel the MP3.

The ECU determines the electric motor assist level depending on how vigorously the throttle is applied; if the MP3 needs a little boost, the electric motor kicks in harder – just what you need when making a quick getaway from the lights (a bit like an electric supercharger).

If the lithium ion batteries run down and there’s no place to plug in, the rider can select Hybrid Charge mode and the MP3 charges while riding on the gas engine alone, though this mode saps some horsepower, reducing acceleration and increasing fuel consumption.

mp3_hybrid_charging.jpgChoose your drive source.

For silent, exhaust-free running, just switch to full electric mode and the gas engine shuts down and uncouples from the rear wheel. This can be done while riding, and it can be called back to action while on the move, too.

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Whir back into the parking spot.

The fourth operating function is reverse, which calls upon the electric motor to back the MP3 into a parking spot. In any of the modes except reverse, the MP3 uses regenerative braking to recharge the batteries.

Those batteries are located under the seat (Piaggio claims there’s still enough room under there for a helmet, though what type of helmet isn’t specified) and can be fully charged in three hours when plugged in, though they’ll reach 85 percent of their charge in two hours.

Charging through a wall outlet also replenishes the MP3’s regular service battery.


VIABILITY

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Not sure where the helmet goes.

Now, the practicality of a hybrid scooter is arguable, especially when factoring in the added cost and weight of the technology.

For example, the MP3 Hybrid 300ie has a claimed dry weight of 257 kg (566 lb), which is a hefty 36 kg heavier than the non-hybrid Euro-only MP3 300ie.

According to the Piaggio Italy website, the Hybrid 300ie will sell for 7,990 Euros, that’s about a third more than the non-hybrid version and a lot better than the price they originally asked for the 125 Hybrid at 9,000 Euros!

Apparently that didn’t sell (not helped by the extra weight and low power output) and they have since slashed the price to 7,700 Euros, though that still seems too close to the 300 to make it attractive. And don’t forget there are probably government incentives for hybrids, which will likely further reduce the price.

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Two motors in one.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in Europe, where some cities do not allow the use of gas powered vehicles in their cores, the benefits of the MP3 Hybrid are obvious; ride in on gas, flip the switch to electric and scoot around in silence.

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Ready to go Hybrid?

When you’re done meandering about the centre of town, switch the MP3 To Hybrid Power mode and it offers the extended range of a traditionally motivated scooter, something that just isn’t possible with an electric bike.

And if you’re on a long haul, there’s an added sense of security knowing that even if you ignore the fuel gauge and run the MP3 dry, you’ve still got another 20 km to find a filling station – just keep one eye on the battery power mode on the dash.

Of course, it’s going to be a tougher sell over here, but as this technology advances and costs come down with time, it could very well become an alternative to gas-only operation, and not just for the sake of saving the environment, but it can probably have some high-performance applications, too.


SPECIFICATIONS


Bike
Piaggio MP3 Hybrid 300ie

MSRP

$TBD

Displacement
278 cc

Engine
type
Four-stroke sohc single,
liquid-cooled
 Power (crank)* 22.4 hp (25 hp in hybrid mode)

Torque*
17.2 lb-ft (20.3 lb-ft in hybrid mode)
Electric motor 2.6 kW, 15 Nm, brushless permanent magnet
Tank
Capacity
12 litres

Carburetion
EFI

Final drive
CVT

Tires,
front
120/70-12

Tires,
rear
140/60-14

Brakes,
front
Two 240 mm discs with dual-piston
calipers

Brakes,
rear
240 mm disc with dual-piston
caliper

Seat
height
780 mm (30.7″)

Wheelbase
1,490 mm (58.7″)

Dry
weight*
257 kg (567 lb)

Colours
N.A.

Warranty
N.A.
* claimed

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0 thoughts on “Piaggio MP3 300ie Hybrid”

  1. Well written and well said Mr. Mouzouris. At the right price (both for this vehicle and fuel) this technology could have a significant positive impact. I look forward to it’s arrival on our shores and your road test!

  2. Don’t forget the ‘regenerative braking to recharge the batteries’
    This is very good for commuting which usually has a lot of slow & go, if not stop & go.

  3. Lithium batteries were invented by Edison a hundred years ago. Not sure what miracle is going to happen in the next 100 years. The only way to drive overall fuel consumption down is to legalize mini-cars for street use. Side-by-side atvs get good economy at the expense of crash protection. They could be used on roads with speed limits of 60 kph or less.

  4. Thanks Costa, I knew I’d missed something along the way. The person who can invent a low cost, lightweight, high-efficiency battery will be able to write his own ticket. That appears to me to be the biggest limiting factor in development.

  5. TK4, the MP3 is actually the opposite of what you are suggesting, and is lighter than what a vehicle like you describe would weigh.

    To get the equivalent of 25 hp from an electric bike, you’d need a much larger motor and more battery power. If you look at current electric bikes like the Zero and Brammo, they are relatively lightweight, but if you add a small gas engine and generator, the weight would increase substantially. And the generator would have to be pretty big to keep everything charged up enough to offer the range the MP3 has.

    A hybrid has all the benefits of a gas-powered vehicle, like range and performance, but it just pollutes a bit less and uses less gas. And, yes, it’s heavier, too, but the benefits outweigh the weight disadvantage of a gas-only vehicle. Now, cost is another matter…

  6. Help me out here – wouldn’t it be a better idea to run the machine on an electric motor and use a high efficiency, constant speed gas engine to charge the batteries ? That way, you could get away with smaller, lighter components ?
    I know, I’m just confused…

  7. The weakness of the hybrid concept regardless of number of wheels is the extra weight they all have (batteries generator etc.) coupled with being targeted for urban use.

    In real world use the extra pounds hybrids carry, means extra energy consumed in stop and go traffic to overcome inertia. A hybrid vehicle used to maintain a relatively constant speed without having to stop much would benefit most from a highly efficient but underpowered IC engine boosted by an electric motor.

    The least amount of energy will be consumed by the lightest vehicle all other things equal. All energy has byproducts, many are undesirable, using more energy than needed is wasteful. The whole point of commuting is to move a person from point H to point W and back to H. If people were truly serious about saving energy and reducing waste, they would use bicycles or mopeds, or tiny [url=http://www.bajajauto.com/comm_psngr_re2s_cng.asp]cars[/url] with 100 mpg or better fuel consumption.

    I suppose when a liter of gas or a kilowatt or electricity goes up to 100 bux or so, people might park their overweight commuters.

  8. You are correct, the Civic can run on electric power only, though it seems very limited in its operation.

    From Honda’s website: “When you’re cruising under 60 km/h, and based on certain conditions, fuel injection can be paused so that only the IMA System’s electric motor supplies power to the drivetrain.”

  9. The current generation Honda Civic Hybrid [i][b]IS[/b][/i] capable of running on the IMA motor alone without the gasoline engine. However, this can only occur when the battery is fully charged, and when traveling under low speed cruising (at a constant speed of 15 to 20 mph).

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