Home » This Concept Scooter Has A Brilliant Hybrid System Like A BMW i3 And More Bikes Should Be Like It

This Concept Scooter Has A Brilliant Hybrid System Like A BMW i3 And More Bikes Should Be Like It

Sym Pe3 Hybridroller Ts
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EVs are slowly taking over the world, but the technology still doesn’t fit many people. This is especially true with motorcycles, where $20,000 gets you a bike that can just barely go 100 miles before taking a couple of hours to charge back up again. Taiwanese motorcycle manufacturer Sym thinks it has what could be a brilliant solution. Why not bridge the gap by making a hybrid? The Sym PE3 hybrid concept scooter isn’t like a Prius. Instead, it’s like the awesome BMW i3 in that it’s fully electric until the battery gets low, then a tiny engine kicks on just to provide electricity. I’d love to see more scooters and motorcycles experiment with this.

This news comes to us from the cool cats of RideApart and German motorcycle mag Motorrad Online. I am an enthusiast of all things no wheels, two wheels, three wheels, and beyond. I love a good motorcycle regardless if it’s powered by a chunky 2.3-liter engine or by an electric motor. As I’m approaching a year with my 2023 Zero DSR/X tester, I’m realizing that so many electric motorcycles miss the mark on both charging and range. A terrible range can be ok if the bike charges fast enough. A terrible charging time can be ok if the motorcycle travels far enough. However, far too many electric motorcycles and scooters have the unfortunate trifecta of bad range, bad charging, and bad prices.

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I think that leaves open a space for tech that gives you both. You can still get the experience of riding electric, but without being shackled to low range and poor charging. That’s part of why David loves the BMW i3 so much that he bought two of them. It’s also why I think Sym might be onto something with its latest concept scooter.

From A Big Name You Might Not Know

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The great thing is that the Sym PE3 isn’t from some fresh startup adding a spit-shine to cheap parts imported from elsewhere. Sym is a large global manufacturer, even if it isn’t a household name in America. Here, I’ll let Sym tell you its history:

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Taiwan ranks top 10 in the global two-wheel markets, which more the 13 millions of motorcycle have been registered in 2018, at the same time, Taiwan has full motor manufacturing chain. SANYANG MOTOR CO., LTD., being the first motor manufacturer in Taiwan, after more than 60 years of development, it is still an important leading brand, and actively deploying the international market.

SANYANG MOTOR CO., LTD. established in 1954, cooperating with Honda, Japan at the first place. After 60 years of development, SANYANG stepping out to overseas market. Currently, the production centers are located in Taiwan, China, and Vietnam. Also set up their subsidiaries in China, Italy, and Germany. Having comprehensive developing technology in two wheelers industry, SANYANG produces multiple products in SYM brand – moped, scooter, bike and cub, selling to 90 countries all over the world with high praise.

Gallery Symba 1

Not noted in those two paragraphs is that the Sym brand was launched in 1961. A year later, Sym signed a deal with Honda for Sym to construct Hondas for Sym’s local market. In the late 1960s, Sym also started building Honda cars for Taiwan. Sym eventually stopped building whole motorcycles for Honda, but kept some old Honda designs around after Honda abandoned them. Sym kept an old-style Super Cub around as the Symba and the classic Honda CB125 stuck around as the Sym Wolf. Today, Sym competes with its old friend on the global stage. Sym isn’t a huge name in the United States, but you can buy its products here and in my experience, the quality is pretty good.

Gallery Wolf 5

What I’m getting at here is that Sym has some real credibility. Reporting from Motorrad Online suggests that Sym intends to put this concept into production, but Sym hasn’t announced any target date.

The Sym PE3

This concept scooter has some promising specs to back it up. Sym first announced the concept last year during the Milan International Motorcycle Show and now it’s back on the show circuit, but with more information.

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At the heart of the PE3 is a 5.5 HP electric motor. Top speed isn’t noted, but the scooter is said to be a city vehicle. I’d expect the scoot to top out somewhere around 40 mph, maybe 45 mph. That motor gets its energy from an aluminum-ion battery.

That’s not a typo. As Motorrad Online writes from Sym’s claims, aluminum is more common than lithium and Sym should be able to make a cheaper aluminum-ion battery than it would a lithium battery. That would make sense since a Sym tends to be a cheaper ride. Sym also claims that its aluminum-ion battery will be more stable than lithium while also benefiting from easier recycling. Scooters are subject to abuse throughout their lives and Sym also believes an aluminum-ion battery will last longer. The battery will be made by Aph ePower, a Taiwanese battery producer.

2023 Sym Pe3 Concept 5

Pe3motor

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Sym says the battery in the PE3 should be good for 22 miles of riding on battery alone. That’s not much range, but remember, this is a city scoot. The company doesn’t specify the exact size of the battery, either, but here’s the fun part: When the battery voltage drops to 60 volts from 75 volts, a tiny internal combustion engine fires up.

Much like a BMW i3, this engine is used purely as a range extender providing energy. It doesn’t connect to the drive wheel at all. Sym says this engine feeds from a 0.8-gallon fuel tank and extends the scooter’s range an additional 167 miles. Add it up and Sym thinks you’ll be able to go just a tad over 186 miles on a charge and fuel. If you need to go further, just fill the tank back up and hit the road.

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It’s the best of both worlds. Many people can zip around town on the morsel of range but have no range anxiety should they need to go further.

Like many concepts, the PE3 carries an unrealistic futuristic design. This includes panels with pearlescent paint and a funky headlight panel that surely won’t make it to the production version. The concept also has a sizable instrumentation screen that looks like a big phone stuck to the handlebars. Still, I could see something close to this hitting production.

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To be clear, Sym wouldn’t be the first company to create a hybrid scooter. Honda claims to be the first company to put a hybrid scooter on the market with the PCX Hybrid. Sadly, you cannot buy that one in America and notably, it’s a parallel hybrid and not a series hybrid like this scooter is. Yamaha also has a hybrid scooter that you can’t buy in America, but it really just has a fancy start-and-stop system.

To get a series hybrid scooter into production would be a big deal. India’s Hero MotoCorp has been working on a series hybrid scooter since 2012 and it’s still not on the market yet. Yamaha has also been working on a potential series hybrid scooter for a couple of years.

It’ll be an exciting day when one of these companies can pull it off. At least on paper, a series hybrid motorcycle or scooter sounds great. If my Zero tester had the ability to extend its own range I would have taken it on a road trip already. Time will tell if the tech will work out for bikes and if that tech is anywhere near affordable.

Images: SYM

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BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
6 days ago

Sorry, gotta disagree on this. If they just ditched the electric motor and battery, they could fit an extra 0.5 gallons of fuel instead, they’d be way better off. The electric motor and battery likely take up well more than 0.5 gallons worth of space. So no only would you get less complexity, lower cost and you’d also get far more range.

Motorcycles, and scooters specifically, are just so damn fuel efficient that a small bit of extra gas far outweighs any energy/range a battery could provide.

I like hybrids, and I’m considering one for my next vehicle, but I still have yet to see a hybrid motorcycle/scooter that makes sense yet. Heck, Full BEV motorcycles don’t make near the sense that BEV cars do.

Drew
Drew
5 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

If the fuel efficiency is to be believed, I suspect this is significantly more efficient than a gasser. About 209 mpg is pretty great, and that probably comes from using the engine as a generator. If you double the fuel capacity and halve the efficiency, it doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff unless the scooter is also about half the price.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
5 days ago
Reply to  Drew

That’s exactly how the engine is used, as a range extender. The engine doesn’t directly drive the wheels.

But 209 mpg isn’t all that much better than most other similarly sized ICE scooters. 5.5hp is right around a 50cc scooter. A US spec Honda Metropolitian gets 155 mpg.

Within SYM’s own line-up they offer loads of 50cc scooters, many of which get as-tested consumptions of 1.5-2.5L/100km, which comes out to 95-155 mpg. And that’s as tested, which on most Euro5 scooters, is lower than advertised (I can’t find an advertised consumption for any SYM 50cc scooter).

You’re theory of doubling/halving efficiency and fuel capacity simply doesn’t hold up.

Any added cost to the scooter is self buys a shit ton of fuel when you are talking fuel economies in the 100-175 mpg area.

Drew
Drew
5 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

I guess I should have done more research–I was pulling about 100 mpg efficiency numbers to compare. If you’re only losing a quarter of your efficiency, the pricing does need to be closer.

And, yes, I know that is how the engine is used. That’s the point I was making–there are efficiency gains to be made from using an engine as a generator. It gets to run within the most efficient power band and electric motors are pretty efficient at turning energy into motion.

Since this is a city scooter, the 22 miles of EV range also can’t be discounted, but that’s going to depend on how someone uses it and is a bit harder to quantify the value.

As with a lot of things, the price is going to make all the difference.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
6 days ago

Range extenders and series hybrids have a lot of advantages for efficiency, reliability, and versatility, the tradeoff being greatly increased weight, complexity, and cost.

This sounds like a scooter would be an awful application for this technology. Am I alone in thinking this?

Drew
Drew
5 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The benefit of using it in this application is that it uses a very small battery and a pretty small motor. The additional weight and cost shouldn’t be awful. And 22 miles of electric range coupled with over 200 mpg on gas is a pretty significant boost over gassers. Price will be the big factor here. If they manage a reasonable price tag, they could really have something here.

Gubbin
Gubbin
6 days ago

An aluminum-ion EV battery is BIG NEWS!

Sbzr
Sbzr
6 days ago

if it double as a generator for home might be even better

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
6 days ago

As far ass function, the range and expected performance of this would work just fine for me. Even without the extender.

What I like more is the design language. I’m really not a fan of modern motorcycles and scooters with their sportbike/motocross aggressive looks and silly styling flourishes. The retro look stuff is also getting pretty tiresome. This one looks unique and modern and presumably reflects some practical design decisions.

HowintheNameofZeus
HowintheNameofZeus
6 days ago

Never thought I’d see the Symba discussed here. I guess it’s time to pull mine out of the carport and go for a ride.

Gubbin
Gubbin
6 days ago

They’re so cute!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
6 days ago

That’s a really neat concept, but if it rides anything like the SYM Citycom 300 I owned for about a month last year, the front end will be completely devoid of any feedback and it will be zero fun to ride.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
6 days ago

Let’s see, 167 miles on .8 gallons of fuel – I’m guessing that’s only at low city speeds? Like the idea a lot, anyway.

Drew
Drew
6 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Yeah, it’s pretty impressive. Looks like almost 209mpg if those numbers are accurate. Even if they’re optimistic, it’s gonna be really good. I’ll be interested in the final specs and pricing for sure.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
6 days ago
Reply to  Drew

It’s more than competitive with a 50cc Honda Cub, and probably performs a lot better

Drew
Drew
6 days ago

This is pretty cool. I’d like to see slightly more electric range, but that much total range is pretty great. I’ll definitely be interested when they talk release date and price.

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