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Piaggio shows high performance hybrid two wheeler


November 14, 2009

Piaggio's USB

Piaggio's USB

Image Gallery (3 images)

Piaggio's MP3 was the world's first hybrid three-wheeler and at EICMA this week, it showed what is likely to be the first two-wheeled hybrid – the Piaggio USB (urban sport bike). The combination of a highly efficient, low-emmission GDI (gasoline direct injection) two-stroke motor and an electric motor, the USB is much smaller than it looks in the images and weighs in at just 130 kg. The USB runs 50km (30 miles) on electric only, and returns 1.5 l/100 km (156 U.S. mpg and 188 imperial mpg).

Quite remarkably, the performance of the USB is awesome using both to develop a claimed combined torque figure of 200 Nm which means the plug-in USB blitzes to its top speed of 100 kmh far faster than your average performance car.

For the electric propulsion only, the 2.5 Kw/h lithium-polymer batteries offer a 50 Km endurance at a cruising speed of 60 kmh and the USB will be reconfigurable as a single-seater, twin-seat, or with top-box. Piaggio's Vespa popularised the scooter in the fifties and its three-wheeled architecture is revolutionary too - this looks to be a particularly viable concept and we think it'll see production.

Once again, Piaggio has chosen a confusing, and now we must assume deliberately misleading, name - last time it named its revolutionary hybrid three-wheel scooter the MP3 (coincidentally the abbreviation for the popular digital music format) and this time it's the USB, another computer term in extremely common daily parlance. It looks like stupidity from here, particularly when both products are world-leading - can anybody think of a good reason to deliberately confuse a product's name with popular terms?

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

\"Top speed of 100 kmh far faster than your average performance car\" In what universe is 100kmh faster then an average performance car. I have never driven a street legal vehicle with a top speed of less then 100kmh (60mph).

Michael Mantion

I just realised that the author was trying to say it gets to 100kmh faster then a performance car. That isn\'t saying much, most 2 wheeled vehicles have high power to weight ratio allowing for snappy acceleration. Comparing the acceleration of a 2 wheel vehicle to that of a car is just silly.

If this were a diesel scooter and not a hybrid I might be impressed.

Michael Mantion

I don\'t understand why Piaggio has such an affinity for naming their bikes after existing technology. All that serves to do is confuse people. First the MP3 and now a USB. I think I might hold out for the DVD or the much smaller bike \'SIMcard\'. :)

Raum Bances

I tend to agree with you Michael, back a few decades ago a friend of mine conducted a little impromtu race out in front of his parent\'s home. He was in his brother-in-laws Dodge that was equipped with a 426 Hemi while I was on my Yamaha 80cc Trail bike. And yes my 80cc bike did beat the 426 Hemi off the line albeit was only for the 1st foot or 1/3 meter. It\'s all in the physic I suppose.


The average consumer has difficulty changing an accustomed behavior, any chance of making a product familiar helps lend an \'air\' of acceptability. To ride on to the coat tails of an existing, albeit successful, product, ie. i _ (fill in the blank) implies an association.


I love this site - the best info on new cool stuff - ever!

But I do not understand your fascination with motor cycles - I have had way too many friends maimed or killed on these things.

You don;t report on new guns as far as I can tell.

Who cares how fast or how far they go - they are just death traps.


@Michael Mantion

It accelerates to 100kph faster than a performance car.

Brian Callender

I have ridden motorbikes all my life,,,,,I\'m now 65,,,,,,,,,,never had an accident,,,,,,,,,never fell off apart from a broken chain on a Bonneville in the 70\'s,,,,


I come here to read about motorbikes - keep up the good work


Ah, the ggod old motorcycles are dangerous cliche. In fact in good ol\' England we have an expression \"Remember when sex was safe and motorcycles were dangerous..?\" Fact is, it\'s the training that\'s dangerous, not the bike. It\'s the user who rides without proper protection and under the influence of drugs or alcohol that is truly dangerous... aided of course by the other ill-trained, inebriated, smacked-out cretin in the 4x4 jumping the red because the phone rang. Sure it\'s a stupid name, but if it\'s green, economical AND fast, who\'s going to complain? Now all they have to do is DO it. (File under: Italian motorcycle manufacturer promises)


I\'m with the majority who think BSW has missed the point. As any enthusiast for two-wheeled vehicles has long known, the industry is a crucible for technological development, and innovation is commercialised far more rapidly than, say, the passenger vehicle industry. Regardless of whether you ride or not, the products of the \"motorcycle\" industry should always hold interest for anyone keen to see where things are going in the real world.

John Lethlean

I have heard that electric motors develop torque nearly instantly, whereas combustion engines need to \'rev up\', hence an electric bike should accelerate even faster than a gasoline powered bike, at least for a short time.


While what WS1229 says is true, it is also true that for a given footprint (weight and dimensions) electric motors lack peak power and endurance compared to ICE. But the balance of a hybrid is that you play to the strengths of each, while minimising the weaknesses. A good hybrid compensates for the mass of the larger battery by eliminating a transmission for the ICE by using the combustion engine as a generator. The most efficient generator is a diesel. The drive is transferred directly to in-hub electric motor.

Piaggio need to do more than just clay model to demonstrate the efficiencies of the model, but the problem with ALL current two wheel designs is that rely on outmoded, obsolete concepts and technologies - the bicycle-with-a-man-perched-on-top. At least the USB seems to indicate thinking about more modern ways to do things.


Electric motors do develop high torque at very low rpm. See the Kila-cycle electric drag bike, where it wins is in the first half of the track. Acceleration is acceleration, car vs bike (sharing the same roads) is a very valid comparison. Often the safety of the motorcycle depends on being able to out perform the four wheeled. And motorcycle technology IS why I read this site.


it looks like the motorcyclists have won this argument hands down, so to speak !


That thing looks awesome! Maintainable top speed? That is, highway cruise?


Quite a cool idea! And for the \"M/C danger squad\", keep your wits about you and you should be just fine. We do not insist you ride one, do not try to deny us ours.

Chris Blake

2 stroke engine? Does that still require mixing oil with your gasoline? .... with all the smoke and extra cost that implies ?

Ullrich Fischer

Hate the name, but I'll buy one when the range is extended to 250kmon electric ay 110kmph. hope they bring out a version suitable for snow.

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