Piaggio and research and development

Anticipating customer requirements, creating products that are innovative in terms of their technology, style and functionality, pursuing research for a better quality of life are all fields of excellence in which the Piaggio Group excels, as well as a means for measuring its leadership position on the market.
The Piaggio Group develops these areas through research and development in 5 centres in
Italy, India and Vietnam.

In particular, the main objective of the Piaggio Group is to meet the most progressive needs for mobility, while reducing the environmental impact and consumption of its vehicles, guaranteeing their performance and levels of excellence. A constant focus is placed on research into vehicles that are at the forefront in terms of:

  • environmental credibility; products that can reduce pollutant gas and CO2 emissions in town and out-of-town use; this is achieved by further developing traditional engine technologies (increasingly sophisticated internal combustion engines), as well as making more use of renewable, sustainable energy sources;
  • reliability and safety; vehicles that enable a growing number of users to get about town easily, helping to reduce traffic congestion and guaranteeing high standards of active, passive and preventive safety;
  • recyclability, i.e. products that minimise environmental impact at the end of their useful life cycle;
  • cost-effectiveness, vehicles with lower running and maintenance costs.

In this framework, Piaggio successfully submitted its MUSS (Safe and Sustainable Urban Mobility) project for the 2008 tender ("Industry 2015") called by the Ministry for Economic Development. The project, which commenced in April 2010, targets the development of innovative solutions for environmentally-friendly urban transport which is more sustainable.
In 2011, the MUSS Project became fully operational, and results have already been made available for industrialisation. In particular, the following successes were achieved in the most important macro-areas of the Project:

  • as regards improvements to engines to cut consumption and emissions, the best results were attained from thermal/fluid dynamics research and optimisation, which led to the development of the new “125/150 Three Valves”, “High Efficiency” and “350 Scooter” engines;
  • as regards the study and development of alternative fuel engines, methane and LPG engines for scooters were defined, ready for marketing;
  • in the study of hybrid plug-in and electric engines, activities focussed on the management of vehicle/recharging equipment communication;
  • as part of studies to reduce vehicle weights, activities targeted research into alternative materials (metallic foams, metal matrix composites, die cast parts obtained from squeeze casting and technopolymers) and new construction solutions, as well as calculation methodologies for the structural optimisation of motorcycle chassis (e.g. the Guzzi Stelvio chassis) and motorcycle and scooter wheel rims;
  • the testing methodology used by the Group's experimental departments (Aprilia Racing, Motorcycle Technical Centre, Scooter Technical Centre) to test main aerodynamic parameters in wind galleries was harmonised and consolidated. Activities are ongoing to improve and develop wind tunnel performance, in association with Perugia University;
  • as concerns Life Cycle Management, analysis is being conducted on the recyclability characteristics of motor vehicles according to ISO 22628:2002. A report will be produced with the calculation results of recoverability and recyclability indexes for the MP3 125 Hybrid;
  • the study and introduction of active safety systems has enabled the first worldwide ABS+ASR system for scooters to be fitted on the new Beverly 350;
  • the optimisation of man/machine interface systems and on board information systems has resulted in the presentation and introduction as standard (2012) of an on board information system based on the use of a smart phone connected by radio to the vehicle.

Piaggio's research and development is strongly focussed on two main themes: developing engines that are even more environmentally friendly and with an even better performance, and vehicles with an improved functionality and safety.

2011 2010
  Capitalised Expenses Total Capitalised Expenses Total
In millions of Euro
Two-wheeler 30.1 27.0 57.1 26.2 19.6 45.9
Commercial Vehicles 8.2 3.2 11.4 13.8 3.2 17.0
Total 38.3 30.2 68.5 40.0 22.8 62.9
EMEA and Americas 20.8 21.2 42.0 22.7 21.5 44.2
India 14.8 8.1 22.9 13.9 1.3 15.2
Asia SEA 2.7 0.9 3.6 3.4 3.4
Total 38.3 30.2 68.5 40.0 22.8 62.9

In 2011, the Piaggio Group continued its policy of retaining technological leadership in the sector, allocating total resources of 68.5 million euro to research and development, of which 38.3 million euro capitalised under intangible assets as development costs.

Research into engines

The design and manufacture of engines is an activity with a high technological content requiring extremely specialised resources.
Piaggio's engine research and development teams are unique in Europe, capable of developing an unrivalled range from 50cc to 1200cc, 2 or 4 stroke engines, with one or more cylinders, fuelled by petrol, diesel or natural gas, with carburettor, indirect or direct injection, and with continual drive, gears or sequential transmission, suitable for mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and light transport vehicles.
Engine research mainly focuses on high-performance, environmentally friendly products.

The new engines presented in 2011 are tangible proof of this commitment. For example, the new “Three Valves 125 and 150” engines include numerous technical solutions to cut emissions and reduce internal friction. The reduction in emissions was achieved by using a particular fluid dynamic configuration for intake lines and the combustion chamber, to create a motorcycle called the "Tumble", with petrol/air induction mix for an even better thermodynamic performance.
An in-depth study was carried out to decrease internal friction (lubrication, use or roller rocking levers, roller bearings etc.) which produced outstanding results in terms of reduction and consumption.

In the last few years, Piaggio's most technologically cutting-edge work to reduce environmental impact has without a doubt been the development of its 125 Hybrid engine (2009). This innovation uses a hybrid powerplant combining an ultra-modern internal combustion engine with electronic injection and an electric motor. The integrated management of two powerplants improves overall vehicle performance and drastically reduces pollutant emissions. In 2010, the 300 Hybrid version joined the 125 model.

Based on results obtained in 2010, the MID2R1 project further investigated some aspects of the installation of fuel containers (CNG) in 2011, with a view to using this technology globally over the next few years on new models, based on market requests.

The Piaggio Group's research teams are also involved in studying and developing electric-only vehicles, with the aim of producing zero emission vehicles that have a high degree of autonomy. During 2011, a version of the Liberty Electric, for company fleets, went on the market.

1_A research project financed by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, with the objective of developing direct injection petrol and bifuel (CNG) engines. Research activities were focused on defining, studying and designing a high pressure injection power and control system.

Innovation and safety

The Group's research and development into vehicles mainly focuses on new solutions to improve customers' quality of life.
The Group's product range, including vehicles, is extensive, from scooters to light transport vehicles, from small engine motorcycles to super sports and racing bikes, from touring to custom bikes, and from small scooters to GT models.
In European cities, two-wheeler vehicles are a practical solution to individual mobility needs and can help reduce traffic congestion, while guaranteeing good levels of safety and comfort, plus considerably lower consumption and emission levels.
The Group is therefore committed at all times to improving safety systems (braking systems, suspension systems and electronic dynamics management) and to identifying new architectural solutions through new product formulas, and aerodynamic and ergonomic analysis.

In 2011, an ABS was developed for the new Beverly Sport Tourer 350, unveiled at the international motorcycle exhibition EICMA, in November. As a first for scooters worldwide, the latest generation ABS was combined with electronic traction control (ASR) to prevent the vehicle from losing grip on acceleration.

The Piaggio Group has acquired an outstanding knowledge of electronics for semi-active suspension and steering damper, and in general of vehicle dynamics, filing several international patents in association with Milan Polytechnic.
As part of its research work on preventive safety and dynamics, Piaggio's most ambitious objective is the study and development of new product concepts, such as three- and four-wheeler tilting vehicles that guarantee an unprecedented stability even on wet or uneven road surfaces, and shorter stopping distances compared to conventional scooters. The benchmark in this sector is the tilting three-wheeler Piaggio MP3, which went on sale in 2006.
These new concepts, in addition to other safety devices, can achieve active and passive safety levels on a par with car manufacturing standards, whilst retaining all the benefits of two-wheeler vehicles in terms of size, emissions and consumption.
In 2011, the new MP3 Yourban model, a lighter and easier-to-handle version of its forerunner, the MP3 - presented at the 2010 edition of EICMA, the international motorcycle exhibition - was successfully put on the market.
As the Group's brands also include Aprilia, Derbi and Moto Guzzi, its research and development focuses on high performance vehicles, with cutting-edge technologies, as well as on vehicles with emotional appeal.

During 2011, Piaggio took part in three European projects for motorcyclist safety and comfort: eSUM, 2BeSafe, VERITAS.

eSUM project

In February 2011, the final event of the eSUM project took place. This project is financed by the Directorate General for Energy and Transport of the European Commission and commenced in June 2008. The aim of eSUM is to identify "best practices" for making urban motorcycling safer and sustainable. In 2010, Piaggio mainly contributed by giving four MP3 125cc Hybrids (one for each city) to Rome, Barcelona, Paris and London, for a minimum three months, to be tested in everyday use by different people (parking enforcement officers, local police officers, traffic light technicians, etc.). Strengths and areas of improvement were identified via a questionnaire for users. During the final event (Barcelona, 2 February 2011) Piaggio presented the MP3 Yourban as a concrete answer to developments in the MP3 concept for a mainly urban use, showing how the results of questionnaires compiled by MP3 125 Hybrid users during the eSUM project confirmed design choices made in 2010.

2BeSafe project

The 2BeSafe project ended in December 2011 in Paris. The objective of the project was to suggest guidelines for improving safety, based on "natural" studies of the behaviour of motorcyclists and on tests conducted in a controlled environment with motorcycle riding simulators. Piaggio contributed as the sole Manufacturer of Consortium vehicles, providing technical support for vehicle instruments and carrying out road tests with its own testers, as well as providing sector expertise for reviewing guidelines.

VERITAS project

The VERITAS project continued into its second year in 2011, with the ambitious aim of suggesting design methodologies and instruments that take into account the needs of elderly users and persons with a certain disability level in various sectors (automotive, entertainment, health, smart home systems). Piaggio is taking part so that it can apply an ergonomic analysis methodology for vehicle design (physical ergonomics) and the study of innovative man/vehicle interfaces (e.g. on-board information systems) to this category of users. The project will end in 2013.