Piaggio MP3 Hybrid 125LT

 

 

 

Make Model

Piaggio MP3 125LT Hybrid

Year

2009

Engine

Four stroke, single cylinder, SOHC, 4 valve

Capacity

124 cc / 7.6 cub in.
Bore x Stroke 57 x 48.6 mm
Compression Ratio 12.0:1
Cooling System Liquid cooled

Ignition

Port Injected Alfa/n type with closed loop system, Lambda sensor in exhaust pipe and three-way double catalytic converter

Starting

Electric (Bendix) with automatic decompressor and automatic choke

Max Power

11 kW / 15 bhp  @ 9250 rpm + 2.6 kW / 3.5 hp electric motor
Max Toque 12 Nm / 1.22 kgf-m / 8.85 ft-lb @ 8500 rpm

Transmission

VT automatic transmission

Final Drive

Belt

Clutch

Centrifugal clutch
Frame

High-strength tubular steel twin cradle

Front Suspension

Parallelogram consisting of four aluminium arms supporting two steering tubes, cantilever suspension system

Front Wheel Travel

85 mm / 3.3 in.

Rear Suspension

Two double-acting hydraulic shocks and adjustable spring preload

Rear Wheel Travel

110 mm / 4.3 in.

Front Brakes

2 x 240mm discs, 2 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

Single 240mm disc

Front Tyre

2 x 120/70 -12

Rear Tyre

140/70 -12
Seat Height 780 mm / 30.7 in.

Dry Weight

249 kg / 549 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

12 L / 3.2 US gal
Consumption Average 1.7 L/100 km / 60 km/l / 141 US mpg
Acceleration: 0 - 97 km/h / 60 mph 5 sec (if both methods of propulsion is used)

The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid is not only the first plug-in hybrid scooter to reach production, but also one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles ever made. It achieves its incredibly frugal consumption -- up to 141mpg -- thanks to a parallel hybrid system similar to that used by the Toyota Prius. Combining a 125cc four-stroke engine with an electric motor, the leaning three-wheeler is capable of operating on either power source alone or with the two combined for increased performance. But, that's only part of the story; the MP3 Hybrid could be the first plug-in hybrid vehicle -- bike or car -- to enter mass production anywhere in the world.

With a normal parallel hybrid, the only energy sources are gasoline and kinetic energy harvested by regenerative braking; both are used to recharge the batteries, which then power an electric motor that supplements the gas engine under acceleration and runs the vehicle by itself at low speeds. It's a clever system that can really reduce fuel consumption, especially at low speeds and in stop-start traffic. The only flaw is that the internal combustion engine must burn some fossil fuel to recharge the batteries, meaning the system isn't as efficient as it could be if those batteries were being recharged from an external source. That's where the plug in "plug-in" comes in handy.

Plug the MP3 Hybrid into a standard wall outlet and you can fully charge its battery pack in just three hours. That energy can then be used to make the scooter even more efficient in hybrid mode or enable it to run on its batteries alone, delivering a silent, zero emissions vehicle (it can operate in electric-only mode after recharging its batteries from the engine as well).

In fact, the MP3 Hybrid can operate in any one of four modes: the aforementioned electric-only or three hybrid modes designed to maximize performance, minimize fuel consumption or recharge the batteries quickly. The later could come in handy if you know you're about to enter one of the new emissions-free vehicles only zones now cropping up in some Europeans cities. In maximum performance mode the batteries can boost acceleration by 85%. Considering the 15bhp, 64mph 125cc MP3 is already fairly nippy, that assistance should give it performance equivalent to a 250cc scooter. For the uninitiated, that means a 0-60 time in the 5-second range or enough urgency to easily out accelerate most cars in town.

Other than achieving stupendously impressive fuel economy, the MP3 Hybrid looks and works just like the non-hybrid version. The only sacrifice is to underseat storage -- that's where the batteries go -- which still remains large enough to fit one full-face helmet. The two-wheeled front end that gives the MP3 its unique character remains unaltered; that means it'll still lean over up to 40˚, but should be immune to falling over or washing out at speed; advantages that've proven enormously popular with new riders.

The MP3 hybrid will retain a scooter's inherent green credentials too. Scooters (motorcycles too) neither slow other vehicles down -- they don't cause congestion -- nor are they subject to sitting still in traffic, they're capable of safely passing through it. So the MP3 is free to achieve its 141mpg while enjoying shorter journey times than any four-wheeled vehicle.

Source Hell for leather

Review

Hybrid cars are familiar enough now on British roads not to evoke comment, but we've yet to see a hybrid motorcycle or scooter.

One reason is cost, as few motorcycle companies are large enough to support the considerable development costs of the new technology, but another is more prosaic: packaging.

Fitting one engine between two wheels can be tough enough, let alone two sources of motive power.

Piaggio has finally done it, or at least fitted the power sources between three wheels, as the new MP3 Hybrid is based on the odd but effective MP3, which has a conventional scooter rear half married to a twin-wheeled front, where both wheels lean and are suspended independently, extending and retracting as you corner like a slalom skier's legs.

The MP3 Hybrid uses a 125cc four-stroke engine found in various other Piaggio products, and in addition a 2.6kW electric motor mounted on the transmission casing alongside the rear wheel.

The claims to green credentials include carbon emissions of 40g/km, which appears to compare very favourably against the best known hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, and its 89 g/km.

The figures, though, are not directly comparable, as Piaggio's test is not the same as the standard car cycles, and it does also seem the MP3 Hybrid starts the test with its battery pack fully charged and ends it with them flat, so more carbon needs to be accounted for in the recharge.

It's not comparing like with like anyway, as the MP3 is far slower than the Prius, and indeed any standard 125cc scooter.

It's possible to select either petrol-only, combined or electric-only riding from the intuitive dash and buttons, and with both working together you have an output similar to a 250cc scooter to play with.

That sounds reasonable, but you have a big factor working against you, and you know it's going to be an issue as soon as you look for it in the specifications: the weight figure has been quietly left out.

At 549lb (249kg) the MP3 Hybrid is almost dead-on a quarter of a ton, and when the batteries run out, you're left with the 125's 14bhp to haul you and the rest of the mass along, and the pace is very leisurely indeed.

It doesn't take long for the electricity to dry up either. In combined mode the batteries last for about 25 minutes so you're only on an overweight 250 for less than half an hour, and it's about the same time before you need a three-hour plug-in charge if you switch to electric-only power - you can at least do this direct from domestic mains power with a normal 13 amp plug.

But with the petrol engine turned off you have a top speed of about 20mph, which is dangerously slow for much city traffic, especially as they'll be expecting you to be quicker on what looks like a big-engined executive scooter. You'll only manage 11 miles at best too.

The mass you're carrying is noticeable in the handling too, as the Hybrid will not be flicked and hustled through traffic, preferring to be swung through direction changes at a more relaxed pace, although at least the mass means the ride is smoother. It probably flattens bumps rather than bouncing over them…

As it is, the real advantage of the MP3 Hybrid is providing transport within some Italian cities' zero emissions zones, inner regions where only electric vehicles are allowed.

These don't exist in Britain, which leaves the MP3 looking to sell only on the fact that it's a hybrid with plenty of sacrifices to demand in terms of practical transport. Even the MP3's useful underseat storage is lost to batteries.

Then there's the cost: the exact figure has yet to be set but at €9,000 in Europe, Piaggio UK says it will cost about £8,000 in the UK.

If the weight doesn't take your breath away, the price will. If the Hybrid lacks everyday practicality, another take on the MP3 theme, the LT, is the only practical solution for many road users: it can be ridden legally with a car licence.

By widening the front track slightly Piaggio has qualified the MP3 LT as a trike, meaning a car driver can ride it, and there isn't a requirement to wear a helmet.

The MP3 LT offers better safety than a conventional scooter as, like other MP3 versions, it doesn't immediately fall if the wheels slide, but it's still a remarkably satisfying ride.