Piaggio unveils four-wheel NT3 concept city car; hybrid version in the works

Late last week, Italian scooter maker Piaggio busted out its low-cost, three-seat NT3 concept at the Milan Motorcycle Show. The city car, which features a traditional four-wheel design and a three-seat layout with a central driving position and twin spots in the rear, could be ready to launch by late 2013. Piaggio conceived the NT3 concept in India and envisions it as a competitor to bargain-priced vehicles like the Tato Nano and some of the entry-level offerings from Maruti Suzuki.

The NT3 concept is loosely based on Piaggio's three-wheel Ape, a commercial vehicle offered in pick-up, panel van and tipper (tilting bed) configurations. The NT3 concept, like the Ape, will be targeted at buyers in southern Europe, India and other emerging markets where low price is paramount. The NT3 was conceived as a multi-purpose vehicle with several task-specific configurations.

For now, the NT3 features either a 200cc or 300cc motorcycle engine. Piaggio's hybrid HyS technology will be optional on 300cc-equipped NT3s and all models are expected to achieve more than 70 miles per gallon. Piaggio has not revealed the launch date for the NT3, but company boss Roberto Colannino told Reuters that production is scheduled to start "within three years" and that the company has "very big sales numbers in mind for India."

[Source: Piaggio Group]


Piaggio Concept NT3. At Eicma 2010 Piaggio Group introduces the NT3 Concept. An extraordinarily innovative vehicle, designed to meet mobility needs in areas with the highest development rates, specifically in India, Vietnam and South East Asia.

NT3 is a result of Piaggio Group's innovation and technological capabilities which - together with a unique design - give life to a four wheeled, three seater vehicle never before seen on the market inspired by the basic characteristics of the ape. NT3 is a compact, safe, flexible, maneuvrable and attractive vehicle as well as being highly competitive thanks to its contained costs.

Concept NT3: key characteristics

- Compact size: thanks to a length of only 2.4 metres, NT3 moves about easily in traffic and is easy to park.
- Load capacity: In the people carrier version, optimisation of the spaces guarantees full accommodations for three people thanks to the innovative three seat configuration with centre driving position.
- Safety: NT3 is conceived around a space frame structure with crash box in order to guarantee maximum protection of the occupants.
- Economy: more than 30 km with one litre of fuel.
- Respect for the environment: the reduced weight allows consumption and emissions to be contained. NT3 can be available with high efficiency and low emissions power drives, including hybrid Piaggio HyS technology.
- Modular: NT3 is a vehicle conceived to allow various transport solutions, such to configure a complete and diversified range of products.

Style: tradition and innovation

Tradition and innovation come together to clothe this Piaggio concept vehicle, completely unique on the mobility scene thanks also to various technical and architectural solutions which Piaggio has covered with specific patents.

Characteristics of the Vespa, but also of the Ape, are represented and reinterpreted to highlight the "Italianism" and originality of the vehicle.

From the side view, the unmistakable shape of the Vespa mudguard is reintroduced on the rear wheels. A radical solution is found at the front, without compromises, leaving the wheels uncovered so as not to forget Piaggio's scooter and motorcycle spirit. The front architecture recalls the Ape characteristics, dominated by an important sign which is reminiscent of the central mudguard.

In the NT3's interior architecture we also find the combination of tradition and innovation which creates a spacious, technological and original driver and passenger compartment. Once again, Vespa was the inspiration: a "tub" without any solution of continuity makes up the central element of the entire driver and passenger compartment.

The longitudinal section is similar to that of a Vespa, with a powertrain installed within complete with lithium batteries in the hybrid version. The use of recyclable materials and the reduced number of parts which make up the interior of the vehicle are aimed at keeping the costs down and simplicity of construction.

Versatility and transformability are two other fundamental characteristics of the NT3 project. There can be multiple configurations of the vehicle to meet various needs and uses. Different content and technology can characterise versions destined for different markets. At the Milan exhibition Piaggio introduces two versions of the prototype: one equipped with all of the most advanced content and the other more basic, equipped with the bare minimum. The differences in outfitting are made possible thanks to the decomposition of the parts and its modular nature which makes it easy to obtain various configurations with different characteristics – and therefore different costs.

Technical characteristics

Vehicle architecture: The use of a spaceframe with crashbox, conceived in high resistance steel, guarantees the safety of the occupants. Further advantages of this projectual choice are the high rigidity, sturdiness in the most severe uses, and keeping the vehicle weight low. On the NT3 concept the integration between powertrain and rear suspension allows the operational space of the mechanics to be contained and the vehicle's centre of gravity to be lowered, which translates into excellent stability. The separation of the spaceframe from the powertrain – realised with a double suspension level – allows for excellent comfort levels with extremely low vibration and noise.

Ergonomics and accommodations: the particular arrangement of the seats guarantees excellent accommodations for three people in less than 2.4 metres of length (the width of the NT3 Concept is 1,500 mm and the height is 1,600mm). The raised driving position provides excellent visibility, also guaranteed by the ample glass surfaces which contribute to excellent on board quality of life. The possibility of reclining or removing the passenger seats allows transportation of bulky objects.

Accessibility: the formed deck allows comfortable access both to the driver's seat and to the passengers' seats. An innovative door opening system allows easy entrance and exit from the vehicle even in tight spaces (for example in cases of parking near a wall or another vehicle).

Handling and road holding: contained dimensions and reduced turning radius provide the vehicle with extreme handling, making it capable of taking on even the most articulated route. The independent Mac Pherson front suspension is optimised to make the vehicle safe in any conditions of use. The "Omega" rear suspension guarantees maximum grip. Integration of the powertrain with the rear suspension allows operating space to be contained and provides a significant reduction in the vehicle's centre of gravity.

Three engine capacities

The Piaggio NT3 Concept can have three different engines, all conceived for maximum environmental compatibility while still guaranteeing suitable performance for the vehicle's mission.

The 200cc engine is characterised by significantly reduced costs of operation, consumption and polluting emissions.
The 300cc engine, based on the consolidated technology of the Piaggio Mp3 three-wheeled scooter, provides brilliant performance in the internal combustion 300cc version.

The 300 hybrid engine version integrates – as with the new Piaggio Mp3 300 Hybrid – the traditional low environmental impact internal-combustion powertrain with the zero emissions electric powertrain with performance equal to the 300cc internal combustion (80 km/hour max speed) and a speed of 30 km/hour in the ZEV "electric only" mode. The on board electronics decide, depending on the operational mode selected and the conditions of use, how much power to provide through the internal combustion engine and how much through the electric engine in order to optimise performance and consumption. The hybrid version represents the solution of excellence to satisfy the growing needs for urban mobility and metropolitan products with high environmental compatibility.

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