Piaggio's MP3 hybrid scooter gets 141 MPG

There's a couple of reasons I like the look of Piaggio's new plug-in MP3 Hybrid Scooter. The first is the technology. According to Piaggio, the MP3 will be capable of up to 141 miles per gallon, with zero-to-sixty times of five seconds. The battery is recharged by wall socket in only three hours, with regenerative braking helping to keep the battery juiced as you're puttering around. All of which adds up to squeezing as much gas mileage as possible out of the MP3's 125-cc gasoline engine. But I also really like the design: a sort of backwards tricycle, as designed by Starfleet engineers. It doesn't have the classic lines or tiny toy wheels of a Vespa, but that's why I like it. A scooter's defining trait — the tiny wheels — is what makes them incredibly dangerous. An unexpected curve, bump or pothole is enough to completely discombobulate your balance and send you flying (which is how I broke a few of my limbs on a scooter back in 2002), while a motorcycle would barely feel the jar. That third stabilizing wheel goes a long way to making the scooter safer for its riders. Piaggio says the two front wheels are still capable of 40 degree turns like any other scooter or motorcycle, and improves traction, stability and braking. I believe it. No firm release date or price yet, but Piaggio says they could hit dealerships as early as 2009. Piaggio unveils a 141-MPG Plug-In Hybrid Scooter [Autopia]
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29 Responses to Piaggio's MP3 hybrid scooter gets 141 MPG

  1. midknyte says:

    > I want a Plug-in Hybrid Motorcycle. Why can’t I look cool and save the world.

    A very sharp scoot that you’d never know or guess was electric by looking at it…


  2. urshrew says:

    I like the idea of scooters for local travel, but I can’t see a feasible way for me to use such items. I live in one of densest populated states and also one which the roads are known very unfriendly to drivers in big vehicles. One of the sad facts about the future of travel (which I think should shift towards light vehicles) is that so many people own large vehicles and don’t care to share the road. I’d buy something like the above for putting around town, but little else.

  3. pseudonym says:

    Scooters are not going to be viable in America until they stop making with engines under 300cc. A 150cc scooter is fine for a 140lb. asian person riding around crowded cities, but not us fat americans riding on 80m.p.h. freeways.

  4. pewma says:

    so how many GBs does it have? can it also play WMAs? in ear headphones?

  5. guy_jin says:

    I really can’t imagine how you could steer that properly – it seems like you’d be on 2 wheels anyway whenever you made a signifigant turn.

  6. Rindan says:

    Yes, potholes and raised man hole covers can affect a scooter more than a big trail bike. So don’t ride over them!

    I can saw with 100% assurance that you do not live in the greater Boston area. Being told to not ride over potholes here is roughly translated into Bostonian as, “never stop outside your front door or you will fucking DIE!”.

    The US in general has unique needs when it comes to scooting around. US roads tend to be bigger, filled with more cars moving faster, population density in any given area is much lower, and people in general commute farther. What the US needs (at least in the Northeast) is simply more efficient cars. The US needs more Honda Civic sized cars with lower MPG and better safety. Basically, the US need cars that can do a 20 mile commute in shitty weather in fast moving high traffic roads, AND can double as a general purpose car.

    I personally am an avid biker who bikes year round through Boston/Cambridge area, but in a year my job is moving out into the burbs. I really don’t look forward to the days when I need to shoot onto a highway into a heavy stream of fast moving traffic in shitty Boston weather on shitty Boston roads surrounded by shitty Boston drivers. My eco-conciseness simply doesn’t hold a capacity for suicide, and so sadly I will have to take up using a car again.

  7. Bugs says:


    There are a few tricycle scooters like this buzzing around the streets of London, UK. They’re far from ubiquitous, but I’ll probably see at least one in any given week.

    The ones I’ve seen tilt their bodies when turning corners. All three wheels stay on the road surface, but the body is articulated to lean properly into the turn. I’ve no idea how deeply they can lean, but it always looks about right for the speed they’re going in city traffic.

  8. Kyle Armbruster says:

    Pseudonym: Most scooters in the world are 50cc and are more than adequate for getting around.

    I used to ride one everywhere. With some tinkering, it was a very capable bike.

    I would never, however, ever, in my wildest and most crazed dreams, ride a scooter on a freeway.

    The bikes you describe–over 300cc–are not scooters; they are motorcycles that you don’t straddle. In which case, just get a motorcycle; they’re easier to handle and have better balance.

  9. dodi says:

    I saw a three-wheeled scooter in Illinois this summer. Freaked me out and I only saw it for a second at an intersection. Kind of forgot about it until this post. In my town, mostly middle-aged men are seen on scooters. I find this odd.

    I had a Honda Elite in college where there was a high density of scooters and motorcycles. I don’t trust the drivers in my hometown to be aware of two-wheeled vehicles. As annoying as I find the tweaked pipes of Harley-Davidson bikes, I’m sure the noise saves lives. Electric cycles would be awesome, but it would be a slaughter in the suburbs.

    At nineteen I would have done anything for a Harley, now I complain about the noise. When did I get so old?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Scooters are unstable because there is almost no significant suspension travel, not because of the size of the wheels. A decent bump lifts the wheel of the ground and the landing is what destabilizes the machine. Most scooters have no swingarm, or a very short one, and tiny springs as front suspension instead of a front fork.

    A big scooter, like a Burgman 650, which is highway capable, has no such problems. If you’ve ever been on a child size dirtbike, which has tiny wheels but huge suspension travel, they have none of the stability issues of scooters.

  11. dculberson says:

    Bugs has got it; the MP3 has a funky front suspension that allows it to lean into turns.

    And John’s right about the small scooter wheels being dangerous and uncomfortable over bumps and potholes. I ride a KLR650 that has big, cushy offroad tires and my wife rides a little Honda Elite. She has to slow down over bumps I barely notice.

  12. teeman says:

    I have ridden 125, 150, and 200cc Vespas – from early 60’s models to early 90’s – and they tended to be terrible on wet pavement or loose gravel. Potholes, not so bad…a lot more exciting than on a bigger bike – I have ridden a Honda 450, 550, and an 1100 (on the other hand – the 1100 was waaay to big for me – good thing I didn’t buy it.)
    I would love to get the three wheel – but it would likely cost more than my used pickup cost me.

  13. Harrkev says:

    They called it “MP3.” I bet the RIAA is currently trying to kill this product. “Piracy is illegal – even on scooters.”

  14. hohum says:

    Yeah the MP3 itself is nothing new, and the tech is pretty awesome. I’ve been admiring the MP3s for a while because of how insanely cool they are, but I still really want a Vespa LX instead… This new hybrid MP3 has me rethinking my plans, although I’m betting it’ll be rather pricey for a scoot…

  15. Julian Bond says:

    It’s not immediately clear if this is a serial hybrid or a parallel hybrid. Whatever. Piaggio’s MP3s are a hoot and work amazingly well. There’s no real reason why a hybrid MP3 shouldn’t also work well.

    But judging by the comments from our American friends on the linked story, they really don’t get it. Or scooters in general. Or the inherent “rightness” of a scooter in a jammed European city where you are allowed to filter between traffic.

    John, sorry to hear your scooter hurt you. It’s a sad fact of life that all two wheeled machines eventually fall over. This is true whether they have large wheels or small. The tilting three wheeler avoids some of the issues but I’m sure it has its own failure modes to be avoided as well. If nothing else, one good thing about it is that your legs are well inside the bodywork and it’ll be the two wheels that take the damage in the classic “sorry I didn’t see you” T-Bone. Yes, potholes and raised man hole covers can affect a scooter more than a big trail bike. So don’t ride over them!

  16. hawkins says:

    These are very cool indeed. I tried one. They lean very easily, up to 40 degrees, which is certainly more than you’d need under non-hot-dog circumstances.

    The problem is that they lean a little TOO easily: at a red light, you think that since it’s a trike, you don’t need to put down your feet. But you do, or the thing leans over on you.

    They solved this (at least on the non-hybrid 250 that I tried) with a lever on the dashboard that locks the wheels vertically. So no need for feet at red lights, and no need for a stand when you park.

    I ended up buying a two-wheeled Piaggio 250, which has big wheels (Mr. Brownlee is correct about the increased gyroscopic and inertial stability that larger wheels provide). I love it, and it gets 70+ mpg.

  17. Milo Minderbender says:

    Wow! That’s only a hundred or so miles per gallon less than some rather old Honda bikes. Try again.

  18. I have a scooter, but I do’nt know about “mpg”
    Will you please tell me the full form of “mpg”?

  19. tp1024 says:

    Give it a roof and two doors, make it a bit wider and flatter, give it a LESS powerful engine, call it a car then give me the money to buy it – and I will do just that.

    The car of my dreams weighs 150 kg, has 15 hp and is as aerodynamic as possible.

    I guess GM won’t be around to make one though.

  20. snej says:

    The true BoingBoing reader isn’t going to buy one of these unless it supports Ogg Vorbis as well.

  21. dculberson says:

    Julian, we “get” scooters just fine, they just don’t apply for a lot of us. They do apply to me, but I prefer the larger wheels. “don’t ride over them!” doesn’t work in an area with heavily salted roads and wild temperature swings; the only way to avoid potholes on my commute is to not go to work.

  22. Latente says:

    in Milan the mp3 is the best selling scooter :)


  23. SamSam says:

    I saw a few of these trikes when I was in Italy last year. I personally hate the three-wheel design. I’m sorry, but I just love the lines on a Vespa. That said, 141 MPG is nothing to sneeze at…

  24. jenjen says:

    I’m not surprised they’re getting some FLAC for calling it MP3.

  25. Botcheck says:

    I own a Piaggio MP3 500 scooter and I am very very happy with it. The scooter is my regular workhorse for errands to the post office,groceries (holds 4 grocery bags under the seat) and picking up my 14 year old daughter from local games.(her helmet stashes nicely under the seat)
    The bike goes 85 mph in the GSParkway and is very stable.I could use a windscreen though.Yes I go over manhole covers and occasional potholes and loose gravel without alarm.I am not a stranger to bad spills but this bike is so safe its not even funny. I barely use the front locking differential except for parking. I personally think this is the future of bikes.

  26. SamSam says:

    The gyroscopic argument vis a vis big wheels is by no means clear, BTW.

    First: Small wheels are smaller, yes, but also turn much faster, offsetting the difference in size.

    Second, and much more importantly: The gyroscopic effect is absolutely minimal on a bike — only a few ounces of force at most. There was a good article somewhere with the calculations, which I can’t find at the moment, but I do remember Fred de Long’s experiments with having a second free-spinning wheel attached to his bicycle wheels, spinning in the opposite direction, completely canceling out any gyroscopic influences, and found that his stability was unaffected.

    Our stability, instead, comes from our minute adjustments to the direction of the front wheel, as well as our own shifting of weight.

    Whether the tiny wheels of scooters might be unstable for some different reason, I don’t know.

  27. dculberson says:

    Samsam, a bicycle doesn’t go anywhere near as fast as a motorized bike/scooter or have nearly as much inertial mass as a motorcycle wheel and tire combo. A bike wheel and tire might weigh what, a pound? My motorcycle’s wheel and tire weigh 10-20 times that much. (Depending on front or back.)

    But really, I don’t know it’s the gyroscopic inertia that makes a bike more planted: it’s the ability of a large wheel to roll over a big bump with less upset. Simple as that. If your wheel hits a bump that’s an appreciable fraction of its diameter, you’re going to feel it.

    Speaking to the gyroscopic effect, though, is the fact that a motorcycle countersteers above anything but the lowest speeds. You’re using a small force input to the front wheel’s effective gyroscope to change direction. That means there’s definitely enough gyroscopic force there to strongly effect the bike’s direction and stability.

  28. RedShirt77 says:

    I want a Plug-in Hybrid Motorcycle.

    Why can’t I look cool and save the world. If something is environmentally designed it always looks like some cross between an egg, a shoe, and a praying mantis.

  29. midknyte says:

    @7 – “Give it a roof and two doors, make it a bit wider and flatter, give it a LESS powerful engine, …


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