A year after launching the MP3 Hybrid 125, the world's first hybrid motorcycle, Piaggio have sold (drumroll) almost none! It's simply too slow, too heavy and too expensive. The Italian scooter giant is confident all of this will change with the launch of a new 300 cc version. Signs are they could be right. >
The MP3 itself has been a huge success, mostly due to the European only
LT-version. The regular Piaggio MP3 requires a
motorcycle driving license, but by increasing the front wheel track by
an inch or so - to 465 mm - the two front wheels on the LT morphs from
"twin front wheels" to "two front wheels" according to EU regulations.
The significance being that it allows you to ride the LT on a regular
car license, at least in the European Union.
Suddenly European car drivers had the option to switch to a more
efficient and more fun commuter without the hassle and cost of getting a
motorcycle license. And they did. In France alone, Piaggio sold almost
14,000 MP3 LTs in 2009! To put that in perspective, the best selling motorcycle was
the Kawasaki Z750 with a sale of just over 6,000. If you wondered where
Peugeot got the sudden urge to make the HYmotion3, look no
Last year Piaggio also added a bit of green to the MP3 range with the
MP3 Hybrid 125. Despite a lot of press, sales have been slow. Or rather
non-existent. The number quoted by Piaggio is 80, most of them probably
parked in their national importers' press fleets. The lesson Piaggio
has learned from this is that even the most eco-friendly Europeans
aren't willing to go green if it's too slow, too heavy and too
expensive. 9,000 Euro for a 125cc that struggled to reach 55mph just
wasn't good enough, even with green "Hybrid" stickers and a 4bhp electric
motor to help you accelerate or drive in electric only mode.
Enter MP3 300 Hybrid - also available in the EU-regulations avoiding
LT-edition. (Apparently the choice fell on the 300 because it's more similar
to the 125 than the 400 cc version). With the same hybrid drive and 4bhp
electric motor, but with a 25bhp engine and the same 9,000 Euro price tag
the 125cc sported in its first year (the 125 itself dropping to 6,500
Euro), Piaggio now hopes to start actually selling their green flagship.
More details in the press release below, but in brief, the MP3 Hybrid can be driven in three modes: Electric only, Hybrid Power,
where the electric motor assists the petrol engine and finally Hybrid
Charge, where part of the energy produced by the petrol engine together
with energy recovered during deceleration and braking recharges the
battery. If used 35% in electric mode and 65% in hybrid mode, Piaggio
claims the MP3 300 LT Hybrid will do 117.6mpg, while
the range in electric mode only is about 12 miles. Not much, but enough to
take you conveniently through the areas and streets closed to petrol
engines that are starting to appear in European cities.
It still remains to be seen if this is enough to convince regular customers
to pay the added cost for the Hybrid, but there are other, possibly even
more lucrative markets opening up for Piaggio. Both local and national
authorities all over Europe are setting up quotas for "clean vehicle"
purchases. With no need for a motorcycle driving license and little
or no competition, Piaggio is all set to get a decent piece of this
potentially huge market, possibly making the MP3 Hybrid the workhorse Vespa of the 21st century.