TVS iQube and Bajaj Chetak ride surging wave of EV demand in India
Legacy Indian two-wheeler OEMs TVS Motor Co and Bajaj Auto, which both entered the EV industry in January 2020 with a single all-electric scooter, are making strong gains in a market transitioning to electric mobility.
With demand for electric two-wheelers retails hitting 91,000-plus units in November and cumulative April-November 2023 sales going past 783,000 units, TVS Motor Co and Bajaj Auto, the two legacy OEMs, which both entered the EV market in January 2020, are among those recording strong numbers. At present, TVS Motor Co and Bajaj Auto are the No. 2 and No. 3 electric two-wheeler players, in a field of around 175 OEMs led by Ola Electric. And both have made the journey with one product each – the TVS iQube and Bajaj Chetak scooters.
In the first seven months of FY2024, as per SIAM wholesale data, TVS Motor Co has sold a total of 116,192 iQubes, up 258% YoY (April-September 2022: 32,472) and Bajaj Auto has dispatched 54,519 Chetaks, up 175% YoY (April-September 2022: 19,814). Clearly, the two legacy players are making their presence felt in a field teeming with EV start-ups.
Bajaj Auto and TVS both entered the Indian EV market in January 2020. While TVS has a larger network and resultantly higher penetration level for its iQube, Bajaj now plans to aggressively expand its Chetak dealer network.
From launch through to end-November 2023, the TVS iQube has sold 241,524 units with August 2023 (23,887 units) being its best month.
TVS iQube hits 200,000 sales in September 2023
In September 2023, the iQube rode past the cumulative 200,000-unit sales milestone, 45 months after launch. While the first 100,000-unit sales took a little over three years, the run from 100,000 to 200,000 was achieved in just 10 months. At the end of October 2023, the TVS iQube had chalked up total sales of 224,742 units since launch.
FY2023 sales of 96,654 units were up a massive 797% (FY2022: 10,773) albeit on a low year-ago base. One of the reasons the iQube saw strong demand in FY2023 was the market introduction of the refreshed iQube, with improved range and features, in May 2022. Sales picked up speedily and the eco-friendly scooter also bagged the ‘Green Two-Wheeler of the Year’ title at the Autocar Awards 2023.
Available in three variants (iQube, iQube S and iQube ST), the zero-emission TVS is priced between Rs 117,000 and Rs 124,000 (on-road Delhi) including the now-reduced FAME II subsidy (from 40% to 15%) and other state subsidies, for the iQube and iQube S respectively.
The top-spec iQube ST variant has a range of 140km on a single charge, nearly twice the 75km range on the first-gen model. The refreshed iQube retains its all-LED lights and 12-inch wheels but gets a host of connectivity features, driven by the various TFT instrument clusters on offer. While the entry-level iQube gets a 5-inch unit that supports turn-by-turn navigation, the iQube S comes equipped with a larger 7-inch TFT cluster that offers music controls and theme personalisation as well. The top-end ST variant features a 7-inch touchscreen instrument cluster, which is also ready for OTA updates, and also offers voice assistance.
Since the e-scooter’s launch, TVS has gradually expanded the retail network for the iQube, which is currently available in over 140 cities and 310 touchpoints across India. The company plans to double the network to almost 600 touchpoints. Meanwhile, the company continues to improve on the ease of charging quotient for iQube owners, who currently have access to over 2,000 charging points with various charging partners through the TVS iQube mobile app.
On its part, Bajaj Auto would have registered higher sales numbers since the Chetak’s launch but for the fact that the Chetak is being sold in far fewer markets than its TVS rival. But now there are aggressive plans to expand the Chetak’s exclusive retail network.
Bajaj Auto, which clocked its highest monthly sales in October (12,137 units), is the new No. 3 OEM. On December 1, it launched the new avatar called Chetak Urbane MY2024 (above) with a 113km range and top speed of 73kph.
Image: Bajaj Auto
Bajaj Auto captures No. 3 EV OEM rank in October 2023
Amidst the exciting action underway in the electric two-wheeler industry, the sudden increase in sales of Bajaj Chetak has drawn attention. The 54,519 units sold in April-October 2023 are a handsome 175% YoY increase (April-October 2022: 19,814).
In October 2023, Bajaj Auto sold 12,137 Chetaks to surpass the longstanding No. 3 OEM Ather Energy (10,548 units) and improving on October 2023’s 8,988 units by a strong 35 percent.
The Bajaj Chetak, whose pricing starts at Rs 115,000 (ex-showroom Bengaluru), is powered by a 2.9 kWh battery, has a certified range of 108km on a single charge and a top speed of 63kph. The Chetak Premium’s highlights include a two-tone seat, body-coloured rearview mirrors, a satin black grab rail and matching pillion footrest castings. The Bluetooth-enabled Chetak app facilitates tamper alert, geofencing and over-the-air updates.
While SIAM wholesales data for November 2023 is yet to be released, Vahan retail sales data reveals that Bajaj Chetak has gone home to 11,668 buyers last month, ahead of Ather Energy (9,166 units) for the second month in a row. The company is now looking to ramp up production as well as expand its network of exclusive Chetak showrooms.
The exclusive Chetak network, currently in around 141 cities across India, is to be expanded to 250 cities by March 2023. Bajaj Auto is also gearing up to expand the Chetak range with new variants very soon.
In a media interaction in mid-October, Rakesh Sharma, executive director, Bajaj Auto, had said: "We will be launching a new model post-festive season under the Chetak family. Post that, every quarter you will see something new on Chetak every quarter. By the same time next year, we will have a decent portfolio and reach to grow the EV business.”
On December 1, 2023, Bajaj Auto launched a new avatar of the Chetak called the Urbane, which costs Rs 115,000 in its standard form, and Rs 121,000 for an additional ‘Tecpac’, which unlocks more features and performance. The company website lists the Chetak Urbane as having slightly higher range (113km) than the current Chetak (108km). However, in the case of the Urbane, this is the IDC-certified range, while for the current Chetak Premium, 108km is its claimed real-world range (its IDC rating is 126km). The new Chetak Urbane gets the same 2.9kWh battery capacity as the current model.
The Chetak Urbane utilises the same colour LCD display as the Premium variant. In standard form, the Urbane offers a 63kph top speed, and comes with only one riding mode – Eco. With the ‘Tecpac’ installed, top speed rises to 73kph and the user gets a Sport riding mode as well.
With stiff petrol prices and most Indian states offering plenty of incentives to accelerate electric mobility, both the Bajaj Chetak and TVS iQube should continue to see robust demand in the coming months. They, no doubt, have plenty of competition from a host of players and an expanding marketplace with new products but what clicks in their favour is their strong brand image, reliable aftersales support and an expanding market launch strategy.
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