Electric Vespa gets smart as Piaggio prepares for production
Since spying an electrified prototype of Piaggio's Vespa scooter in Milan two years ago, we've been keeping an eye out for launch details on this zero emissions version of the iconic two-wheeler. The company has today announced that production will kick off next month, with the Vespa Elettrica to hit the market soon after.
As in the automotive and motorbike worlds, a clear trend is emerging where scooter manufacturers are positioning themselves for an electric future. We've seen all manner of sustainable scooters emerge from startups and established names alike, along with EV scooter-sharing schemes like Gogoro that continue to build their presence in Asia and Europe.
The Vespa Elettrica will lead Piaggio's push into the area. First unveiled at EICMA 2016 in Italy, the vehicle will carry a 4-kW (5-hp) electric motor and have an electric-only range of 100 km (62 mi). Piaggio says a hybrid powertrain option will also become available at some point, which will offer double that range.
Maintaining the storied badge's iconic shape, the Vespa Elettrica is finished in chrome grey with color accents in one of seven colors. A color TFT display connects with the rider's smartphone and acts as a virtual dashboard, presenting trip data and even directions to nearby service stations.
Piaggio says it will begin producing the scooter at its Pontedera plant in Pisa, Italy in September, the same facility where the very first Vespa's were built in 1946. They will be available to order online from October onwards, with the company to begin shipping to Europe, followed by the US and Asia in early 2019.
Another interesting tidbit from the announcement is the revelation that the Vespa Elettrica will pack some of the artificial intelligence capabilities of Piaggio's Gita robot. This is a cargo-carrying machine currently under development that is built to follow you home with your groceries, among other applications.
This will apparently make the scooter aware of pedestrians and other vehicles in its vicinity, allowing it to better sense potential hazards. It will also collect traffic and mapping data and, according to Piaggio, becoming acquainted with its owners and their driving habits over time and anticipate their on-road behavior, even eventually recognizing them without key fobs.
Piaggio is remaining tight-lipped on the pricing of the Vespa Elettrica, but does say it will cost similar to other high-end scooters in the Vespa range.