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 at 6 centres in Italy, India, Vietnam and China.

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 tender ("Industry 2015") called by the Ministry for Economic Development.
The project, which was completed in autumn 2013 with excellent results, targeted the development of innovative solutions for environmentally-friendly urban transport which is more sustainable.
Many of the results achieved had a positive impact on production from as early on as 2011; and are recorded in previous sustainability reports. As regards activities performed in 2013, and the project's main macro areas, the following results were achieved:

  • the greatest contribution to reducing consumption and emissions was attained by the optimisation of engine thermal fluid dynamics, with particular reference to the combustion process, as well as by a reduction in organic leaks and an improvement in the performance of the CVT transmission system. The experience in optimising new "Three Valve" 125/150 engines, in particular for the Vietnamese versions, was put to good use to improve performance in European models too;
  • technical solutions for hybrid plug-in and electric engines were studied and developed, to improve the performance and reliability of electronic control and energy accumulation systems, and to achieve greater vehicle usability with Smart Autonomy Management (GIA, Piaggio Patent). The development of new 1.5 kWh modular (lithium) batteries continued, targeting potential use up to 10 elements also in non-conventional fields for Piaggio. Considerable focus was also paid to the regulatory framework at a national and international level (Two-wheeler);
  • numerical/experimental methodologies were developed in the field of engine acoustics and timbre, with the aim of designing intake and exhaust systems and engine components with acoustic emissions that are increasingly lower and "more pleasant”.
  • the development of aerodynamic simulation methodologies (CFD) continued in 2013, with a detailed breakdown of engine components and the virtual rider model. The virtual simulation methodology was validated by comparative analysis of experimental data obtained in the wind tunnel at Perugia University;
  • in the “Life Cycle Management” sector, Piaggio partnered Florence University in analysing the recyclability characteristics of the MP3 125 Hybrid according to ISO 22628:2002, which required disassembly of the vehicle and registration of all components. The recyclability rate was 88%, which is considerably higher than the 85% limit of current laws (currently in force in the automotive segment for N1 and M1 categories only), demonstrating the high environmental compatibility of the Piaggio vehicle as regards end-of-life treatment;
  • in the field of active safety systems, studies and experiments led to ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) semi-active electronic suspensions being used in the mass production of the Aprilia (Caponord 1200, presented in spring 2013).

The ride-by-wire technology, which has been extended to most of the Group's vehicles, has made it possible to implement functions such as cruise control, multi-map systems and traction control systems, as in the APRC system (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) that includes ATC (Aprilia Traction Control), the Anti Wheelie System, Quick Shift (electronic gear) and Launch Control (starting control). Ride By Wire will be used on the Master 500 engine for scooters and will be assembled on the 2014 version of the MP3. This version will include Traction Control and multi-map management to adapt performance to special road surface or riding conditions.

An electrically adjustable suspension was developed for the Piaggio X10 and Aprilia Caponord, of which the ADD package is a part (electronic suspension).

The first full-LED scooter light made its appearance on the Vespa 946;

  • in the field of human-machine interface and on-board information systems, the Piaggio Multimedia Platform info/mobility system, based on a Bluetooth® smartphone/vehicle connection, was made available to the public as an accessory for the Piaggio MP3, Vespa 946 and Aprilia Caponord, as well as the Piaggio X10. The application software was released for both iOS operating systems and Android platforms. The system implements an innovative virtual pressure sensor function, available for vehicles with ABS, that allows the rider to check tyre pressure.

(http://www.multimediaplatform.piaggio.com/eng/index.htm). 

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.

 

 20132012
 CapitalisedExpensesTotalCapitalisedExpensesTotal
In millions of Euro
Two-wheeler26.214.140.330.016.246.2
Commercial Vehicles4.62.77.410.52.913.3
Total30.816.947.740.519.159.6
 
EMEA and Americas21.314.635.921.917.239.1
India4.31.35.612.41.113.5
Asia Pacific 2W5.21.06.36.20.87.0
Total30.816.947.740.519.159.6
 

In 2013, the Piaggio Group continued its policy of retaining technological leadership in the sector, allocating total resources of € 47.7 million to research and development, of which € 30.8 million 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.

The Piaggio Group's engine research and development teams are unique in Europe, capable of developing a range from 50 cc. to 1,400 cc., 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 350 4-stroke 4 valve water cooling engines for the GT - High Wheel premium and “125 and 150 three valve” segments, unveiled in 2011, are concrete proof of this commitment. In particular, the Three Valves models embody several technical solutions aimed at capping emissions and reducing internal friction. Emissions have been reduced by adopting a unique fluid dynamics design of the suction ducts and combustion chamber, creating a "tumble" motion of the inflowing air/fuel mix that makes it possible to improve thermodynamic performance. An in-depth study was carried out to decrease internal friction (lubrication, use of roller rocking levers, roller bearings etc.) which produced outstanding results in terms of reduction and consumption.

During 2013, the 3V engine was fine tuned to cut consumption by a further 5% to 40 km/h, which is the standard comparative value. In reality, the improvement is even more evident at faster speeds, reaching 60 km/l at 50 km/h. 

Optimisation concerned both thermodynamics and CVT transmission efficiency.

In recent years the most cutting-edge effort to reduce environmental impact has been the development of the 125 and 300 Hybrid engine, which began in 2009. This innovation uses a parallel 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 2013, the development of new modular 1.5 kWh batteries was completed; these will be the forerunners of future families of modular batteries that will incorporate numerous functional improvements to increase their versatility    

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, small engine motorcycles, super sports bikes, racing bikes, touring bikes, custom bikes, small scooters and 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.

Piaggio continued to focus on improving the active safety of its products in 2013, extending ABS and ASR to other Group vehicles.

The ABS/ASR version of the new Piaggio X10 350 and 500, marketed in 2012, features a combined, three channel ABS, which is a first-time application for the Group's scooters, plus ASR electronic traction control. This function has also been developed for and extended to the Aprilia SRV 850 maxi scooter with twin cylinder engine. In 2013, the ABS/ASR system was also applied on the Vespa 946, while the ultra-new Vespa Primavera (125 and 150 cc), presented in November 2013, has single-channel ABS.

Mass production also began in 2013 on the Aprilia Tuono and Aprilia RSV4 with a Bosch two-channel ABS and three different calibrations, plus the Race option in which the ABS is disabled. As stated previously, the ride-by-wire technology, which has been extended to most of the Group's vehicles, has made it possible to implement functions such as cruise control, multi-map systems and traction control systems, as on the APRC system (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) that includes ATC (Aprilia Traction Control), the Anti Wheelie System, Quick Shift (electronic gear) and Launch Control (starting control).
Ride By Wire will be used on the Master 500 engine for scooters and will be assembled on the 2014 version of the MP3. This version will include Traction Control and multi-map management to adapt performance to special road surface or riding conditions.

In the field of active safety systems, studies and experiments led to ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) semi-active electronic suspension being used in the mass production of the Aprilia (Caponord 1200, presented in spring 2013).

An electrically adjustable suspension was developed for the Piaggio X10 and Aprilia Caponord, of which the ADD package is a part (electronic suspension). The system lets the rider easily adjust the rigidity of the suspension system to load/road conditions and riding style, from the handlebar controls, for even better active safety.

Lastly, the first full-LED scooter light made its appearance on the Vespa 946.

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.

Piaggio has always played a major role in European projects to improve the safety and comfort of motorcyclists.

During 2013, for the VERITAS project, Piaggio worked on the development of a predictive model for the ergonomic analysis of two-wheeler vehicles, based on anthropometric measurements and scooter and motorcycle posture surveys, also on a sample of older users. The results were used to develop a software programme for ergonomic controls during new vehicle configuration, as well as more accessible solutions for older users. As regards man-vehicle interfaces, facilitated access functions (for users with slight physical disabilities) were designed and tested for the Piaggio Multimedia Platform application.