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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 19, 2009 with no responses

Italian Scooter May Become First Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle in the U.S.

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The plug-in hybrid scooter will be modeled after the Piaggio MP3 line of three-wheeled scooters.

Piaggio Group, maker of the Piaggio and the Vespa brands of motor scooters, is set to release a plug-in hybrid scooter in the U.S. by early 2010., which would beat the Chevy Volt by six months and make it the first plug-in hybrid in the U.S.

The plug-in hybrid scooter is a modified version of Piaggio’s MP3 500 (the Gilera Fuoco in Europe). The hybrid version will get about 140 mpg, and be priced between $8,000-$9,000, according to Paolo Timoni, the president and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas.

Piaggio has a network of over 500 dealers selling their scooters in North America.

While the company is going through the certification process for the scooter with the National Highway and Transportation Safety Association, the plug-in hybrid is expected to go on sale in Europe late this year.

The three wheeled scooter is a parallel hybrid which combines a 125cc engine and an electric motor similar to the power train of the Toyota Prius.

But don’t let the word hybrid fool you into thinking it doesn’t have much power. The scooter will be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5 seconds.

Charging the battery can be done from a standard 110 volt electric outlet.  Regenerative braking will charge the battery while the scooter is on the move.

The hybrid is based on Piaggio’s line of MP3 scooters which have one wheel in back and two in the front that tilt when it turns, much like a traditional two-wheel motorcycle. The design gives it added stability at speed, and allows it to stand up without a kickstand while idling at a stoplight.

The electric engine will be able to power the scooter for about 10-12 miles on electric power alone. But it won’t have the downside of most other electric vehicles. When the scooter runs out of electricity, the gasoline engine will take over and make sure you don’t get stranded.