Plug in, 2006-style!

We’ve been asked several times this week why we haven’t fallen all over ourselves to join the media bandwagon hyping Piaggio’s revolutionary MP3 plug-in hybrid, due to the U.S. in 2010. Here’s why:

2strokebuzz first posted about the Hybrid MP3 three years ago when they started testing it in Milan, again when they officially announced it a week later, again in July 2007, when they re-announced it, again in November 2007 when PiaggioUSA promised it to the U.S. in late 2008, again in late 2008 when Jay Leno promised it in late 2009,, and several times in between. So PiaggioUSA very well may manage to get their $10,000 beast to the U.S. in 2010, but we’ll hype it then. Clearly, PiaggioUSA put a lot of effort getting their name in the news over the last week or so, but that doesn’t mean they have anything new to say. Aside from offering a new date two years after the original target, and adding the ultra-trendy phrase “plug-in” before “hybrid” (the original 2006 press release stated it could be plugged in to charge) there’s really nothing to write about. The real news is that they had working prototypes on the streets of Milan three years ago, and still don’t have the HyS engine on the market yet.

It’s also worth pointing out that the arguably-greener Vectrix is sold at about the same price by an American company and has been available for a couple years, and, sadly, few consumers are interested in it. Maybe people are holding out for a prehensile wheel and Italy’s legendary electrical expertise. Early comps of Vectrix’s proposed 3-wheeler featured a Piaggio front suspension, but the prototype on display at DealerExpo this year had a new Vectrix-designed front end, will it beat the hybrid MP3 to market?

9 thoughts on “Plug in, 2006-style!”

  1. I’m still curious what the expected emissions resulting from the household electricity use are. Does coal-generated electricity really cut down the total emissions (let alone the household cost)? Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are not zero-emission.

  2. Yep, that too. And batteries are not eco-friendly to produce, nor to dispose of. Everyone (especially marketers and the media) want to talk about these rosy solutions, and props to everyone who’s really trying to make a difference, but there are just a million ways to look at this stuff, and there’s always good arguments on both sides. It’s not as cut-and-dried as people want to make it out.

    And of course, so many people that buy scooters under the “it’s saving the environment” or “I’m saving money on gas” arguments, I’d say they’re just looking for an excuse to spend money. Scooters are fun, moderately economical and ecologically sound, and just a good way to get around, but they’re not saving the world. Used to replace a first or second car, they might save you some cash, but they’re nothing compared to a bicycle or public transportation.

    Saw the film “Objectified” the other night, and without being preachy or even making any judgements at all, the film is very enlightening about our justifications for consumption and the forces that drive them.

  3. Public transportation isn’t a slam dunk for the environment either, and is subsidized by the government which gets it’s funds from we the taxpayers. How good for the environment can it be to run a fleet of buses all day when a good percentage of them are empty or nearly empty? They stop every quarter mile too, so they’re slow to get you where you need to go. The system is far from efficient, at least in Cincinnati. I’d be curious to know what the real cost is per person and what the real pollution is per person per mile for the bus system here.

  4. I know that in carbon footprint analysis of electric cars it has been calculated that even when the electricity is from coal fired plants (the worst case), electric cars are “greener” than gasoline fuel cars. When you take into account that over a quarter of US electrical generation is from carbon neutral sources it looks even better.

    I can’t see why it would be any different for a plug in scooter.

    Specifically the efficiency of an ICE is 15 to 20%. Allegedly the corresponding efficiency of an electric vehicle charged from a fossil fuel powered utility is about 40%.

    But you are going to see much smaller green gains when running in hybrid mode and producing electricity from your gas tank.

    By the way, buses beat the crap out of any hybrid or electric on the road when it comes to carbon footprint per passenger mile. Typical buses get 8-10 mpg – about the same as a large pickup truck or Hummer. It doesn’t take very many passengers to make them the greenest vehicles on the road – even compared to utility powered electrics – or scooters.

  5. Lobsterman, as you know, I’m from Cincinnati, and it’s just not the model for public transportation, which is a shame, they could use more/better. Of course, it is a very typical U.S. city, built for cars, and not so congested, so most people wouldn’t bother with public transportation even if it was better.

    In Chicago, buses are packed for a good portion of the day, and rarely empty (and they’re being replaced slowly with more-efficient buses and hybrid buses), and commuter rail (Metra) and the subway/el (CTA) make a huge difference in automobile traffic. Metra is diesel, but carries 220,000 passengers a day, CTA trains (not including buses) carry more than half a million people per day, and are electric-powered. It takes a lot of government funding and a lot of energy (renewable and not-so-renewable) to keep that all running, but all in all, city and suburban buses and rails provide carry 2 million passengers everyday, which (assuming a round trip) is keeping 1 million cars off the road, so it certainly seems worthwhile.

    Sadly, it *is* heavily publicly-(under)funded, and like most things in Chicago, the management is questionable, so fares continue to increase regularly, and service is cut occasionally. In the 15 years I’ve lived in Chicago, bus/train fare has gone from $1.25 (iirc) to $2.50 (though discounts are available for regular travelers). still, a monthly bus pass costs far less than car payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance, not to mention parking, and is probably competitive to scooter operating costs (especially if you must pay for scooter parking, which is the norm here.) And a scooter’s useless here for at least 4 months of the year.

  6. Regarding public transportation being government subsidized: so what? Just about all infrastructure and public utitilities are government subsidized, if indirectly. If roads (especially freeways) were priced accordingly to their users (rather than being subsidized with state funds) many many drivers would freely choose to drive less. And that doesn’t consider the costs of the externalities associated with massive automobile use, sprawl, pollution, climate change, etc.

    Blue Mark, thanks for the numbers on electric vehicles. I still think they shouldn’t be called zero-emission, as I’m sure you’d agree.

    What would be interesting is when carbon-neutral electric sources become cheaper and more widespread, enabling more economical production of hydrogen for fuel cells. I’m not holding my breath, however.

  7. Indeed, “zero emissions” is not really “zero emissions” when one takes into account life cycle carbon production from manufacturing and energy production. But I do believe that plug-in hybrids are better than standard ICE vehicles.

    I’m a skeptic about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The technology is great, but I still don’t believe there is any practical way to store sufficient quantities of hydrogen in a passenger car, and certainly not in a scooter. When in tin-foil hat mode I tend to suspect that the promises of hydrogen fuel cells are being used to avoid an early switch to sustainable electric vehicles like the late and lamented EV-1. Like nuclear fusion, we will always be just a few years away from practical hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

    Methanol or Ethanol based fuel cells on the other hand ought to be a near term possibility.

  8. I don’t stock the regular, gas powered mp3 because it is a parts/service nightmare. Then you suggest that you’re going to compound that nightmare by making it run on not one, but two forms of propulsion, 2 more computers (it already has 2) and make it HEAVIER?!?!?

    I am taking exactly the same stance on this that I did on the Vectrix… great, cool, nifty, I hope you really, really enjoy it…but not at POC.

    Oh, and how’s that Vectrix stock looking? Glad I don’t have 6 of them sitting in my dealership.

  9. Where’s Andy with the bicycle hype? I’ve been riding my bicycle WAY more than my scooter lately, which isn’t saying much.

Comments are closed.