FOR A lot of folk, a Hybrid powerplant is a great halfway house to full electric vehicles. You still put petrol (usually) in the thing, so no panic about charging up, and the electric motor takes over when an engine would be really inefficient - very slow speeds and idling. Plus, if you add the motor into the drive when accelerating, you can use a lower-power (and more fuel efficient) engine, while still getting the performance you want.
They're better in cars for sure: a Toyota Prius trickling through a traffic jam will mostly be using its electric motor, so no exhaust gas pollution and improved mpg. And cars are better able to accommodate the volume of a large battery and fit the motor into the powertrain. But Honda - who have some really good hybrid cars - are bringing the first production hybrid scooter to market in Japan this September. The hybrid version of the PCX scoot comes with the same 125cc motor as the standard version - so the Hybrid should actually be a little quicker. That OHC four-stroke single makes about 12bhp, and the built-in starter/generator/drive motor adds another 2bhp. That motor is powered by a 48 volt lithium battery, and it kicks in for up to four seconds when you pull away, assisting the stock motor, cutting emissions and fuel consumption while adding to the acceleration. It's charged up as you ride along, although we're not sure if it uses 'regenerative' braking effect, slowing the bike down more to charge the battery.
The overall mass isn't up by much - the Hybrid curb weight is just 5kg more than the standard UK model PCX125. The battery does take up some underseat storage, but that aside, it seems to be a decent addition to the little econo-scooter. According to Honda's claimed fuel figures, it seems to add about 10mpg to the total - up to around 145mpg. Not bad for a 125-spec scoot with 14bhp. It goes on sale in Japan this September, with an initial run of 2000 bikes being built in Vietnam.
It's clearly a toe in the water, and a Hybrid Fireblade or VFR is some way off still. But it certainly points to where firms like Honda are thinking about going.