Ditching a car for a fuel-efficient Vespa isn't enough to satisfy some sustainability advocates, but few people will have reason to complain now that Italian manufacturer Piaggio has introduced the first hybrid scooter. The three-wheeled MP3 hybrid, scheduled to make its European debut in August and a U.S. debut in 2010, will cost a hefty $12,500—more than gasoline-powered MP3 scooters, which range from $7,100 to $9,000. The MP3 is also pricier than the all-electric Vectrix Max-Scooter, which is priced at $11,000.
The MP3 is a few steps ahead of first-generation hybrid cars. It uses a lithium ion battery instead of nickel metal hydride, and the gas and electric engines work simultaneously. Drivers can also opt for all-electric mode during shorter journeys. As with hybrid cars, information on gas reserves and battery charge is available on the dashboard. A full charge cycle takes three hours, but 85% charge can be achieved in only two hours.
Piaggio hopes that its move into the hybrid scooter market will make scooters more appealing to American customers, but it will have to compete with hybrid and electric motorcycles like the Brammo Enertia, which will be sold countrywide at Best Buy stores. Regardless of how well the MP3 does in the U.S., Piaggio plans to use its hybrid technology for other scooters in its stable—possibly including the Vespa.