Italian Scooter to be First (Affordable) Plug-in Hybrid in U.S.

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This Gas 2.0 story reports that Piaggio, an Italian motorbike and scooter manufacturer, will launch its MP3 hybrid 3-wheeler in the U.S. in early 2010. 

According to the article, the MP3 would be the first “affordable” plug-in hybrid vehicle of any kind available in the U.S. (I guess that excludes the Tesla Roadster, which sells for over $100K). 

The unusual 3-wheel design of the scooter is protected by U.S. Design Patent No. D547,242 (‘242 patent).  A design patent only protects the ornamental features of a device and primarily consists of figures, like this one in the ‘242 patent: 

 piaggiofig.JPG

The MP3 hybrid will offer several operating modes, including electric only and three other hybrid modes – one designed to maximize performance, one to minimize fuel consumption and one to quickly recharge the batteries.

U.S. Patent No. 7,351,265 (‘265 patent) covers Piaggio’s scooter-size hybrid technology.  Entitled “Hybrid drive assembly for a vehicle, in particular a scooter,” the ‘265 patent is directed to a compact hybrid drive assembly that can be used in small, low-cost road vehicles but still provides a number of different operating modes.

The ‘242 patent describes a hybrid drive assembly (1) for a scooter having a rear drive wheel (2).  The drive assembly includes an internal combustion engine (3) having a drive shaft (4).  The drive shaft axis (B) is parallel to the drive wheel’s axis of rotation (A).

 piaggiofig2.JPG 

The transmission unit (5) is located between the drive shaft (4) and a propeller shaft (6).  The propeller shaft axis (C) also is parallel to axes A and B.  The transmission unit (5) comprises a continuously variable transmission (7).

The drive assembly (1) also has an electric motor (32), which is connected to the vehicle battery (not shown). 

A control unit responds to input signals and controls the operating mode of the drive assembly.  An all combustion mode provides high performance, and an all-electric mode minimizes fuel consumption.  

The internal combustion engine and electric motor also can be adjusted by the control unit to be connected in series (the combustion engine is only used to charge the battery) or in parallel (both the combustion engine and the electric motor provide drive power).

The MP3 hybrid can be charged by plugging it into a standard electrical socket.  According to the Gas 2.0 article, the MP2 hybrid will be super fuel efficient (141 mpg) with a price tag of only about $8-9,000. 

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.