The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid uses a gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine and a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor. The two power plants are mechanically and electronically linked in a parallel hybrid configuration. This allows the MP3 Hybrid to operate with both gasoline engine and electric motor working together or with just the motor allowing for a fully zero emission mode.
The batteries can be recharged by plugging the MP3 Hybrid to a regular electric socket. Piaggio says a full charge takes up to three hours while a two hour charge time will provide 85%. The batteries are also charged by the combustion engine when it is running. The MP3 Hybrid also uses regenerative braking to charge the batteries.
A ride-by-wire electronic power control system controls acceleration and the onboard electronic Vehicle Management System determines how much power to draw from the engine and the motor, depending on operating conditions. The electric motor is also used to provide brisk acceleration, such as when moving from a standing start, providing, according to Piaggio, up to an 85% boost in performance.
The MP3 Hybrid runs in four modes, all selectable by the “Hy Tech” button located on the right handlebar: hybrid power, hybrid charge, full electric and reverse.
The hybrid power mode uses both the engine and the motor to power the rear wheel. According to Piaggio, the MP3 Hybrid has a fuel efficiency of 141 mpg under this combined power mode.
In hybrid charge mode, the 124cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single-overhead cam four-valve engine is the primary power plant, powering the MP3 Hybrid while also charging its batteries.
The full electric mode turns off the engine, powering the MP3 Hybrid with just electric power.
The reverse mode also uses the electric motor and allows the MP3 Hybrid to move backwards.
Beyond the hybrid technology, the scooter offers the same features as the regular MP3. The two front wheels tilt using Piaggio’s quadrilateral front suspension system. The hybrid version also uses the electronic front suspension lock to allow the rider to stop without needing to put his or her feet on the ground.
The instrument panel has been updated to include a battery charge indicator and an indicator that lights when the vehicle is plugged in and recharging. The MP3 Hybrid also receives a new horn, useful when running in the silent electric mode.
The batteries are located in a compartment under the saddle, but there is still enough room to store a helmet and other objects in the rear-opening compartment.
The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid will be available in Europe in August. The U.S. model is scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of 2010.