Bajaj Auto readying to plug into EV market

by Ajit Dalvi & Sumantra B Barooah 29 May 2019


An electric Bajaj three-wheeler draws a curious driver of a conventional three-wheeler. (Photo: Chaitanya Mankar)

The Pune-based Bajaj Auto, which is firing on all cylinders in both the domestic and export markets, could be looking to chart new growth paths, this time in the field of electric mobility. While there have been reported sightings of a Bajaj electric scooter, reader Chaitanya Mankar has sent in a photograph of a Bajaj electric three-wheeler.

For India Auto Inc, FY2019 may have been a dampener for overall internal combustion-engined vehicle sales, given that they recorded single-digit growth. In comparison, albeit on a much lower base, the country’s nascent electric vehicle (EV) industry notched handsome numbers. In FY2019, total EV sales in India crossed the 750,000-unit mark to clock a total of 759,600 units. This includes electric two-wheelers (126,000), electric three-wheelers (630,000) and electric passenger vehicles (3,600). Clearly, electric two- and three-wheelers are the low-hanging fruit in electric mobility market, which a number of OEMs are looking to plug into.

Bajaj Auto's managing director Rajiv Bajaj has maintained his stance of keeping Bajaj Auto a motorcycle-only company, even if that means not playing in a third of the overall two-wheeler market, given that the company does not have any engagement in the scooter market. However, the story could be different in the electric mobility space.

Bajaj Auto is learnt to be preparing its first electric two-wheeler — a scooter — for launch likely this year. The electric scooter will be under the company's newly formed vertical called Urbanite, which will offer a range of intra-city mobility solutions. Eric Vas, who till recently was president of the motorcycle business, is heading Urbanite now. And in the electric mobility era, Bajaj Auto's ride will not be limited to two wheels only. Three- and four-wheelers are being planned.

In a recent interview with Autocar Professional, Ramesh Sharma, executive director, Bajaj Auto, said: "Our objective is to develop and present electric options for all the formats we operate in, which is two, three and four wheels. At this stage, we will focus on evaluating feasibilities, business and otherwise, and learning from the product-customer-environment interfaces.”

Replying to a query whether the new Urbanite business vertical will cover both motorcycles and scooters, Sharma said: “The Urbanite vertical has been set up to look at advanced intra-city mobility solutions, so it will evaluate all types of options.”

Bajaj electric 3W has 120km travel range, 45kph max speed
Bajaj Auto’s electric three-wheeler, which has a maximum speed of 45kph and a travel range of 120km, has a kerb weight of 400kg with a payload of driver and three passengers. The eco-friendly three-wheeler, which is shod with 12-inch wheels with low rolling resistance, employs regenerative braking to enhance travel range. Powered by 48V lithium-ion swappable batteries, the vehicle has an onboard charging time of 6 hours. Battery swapping time is 6 minutes. An important highlight is a digital instrument cluster, which will be a new feature for three-wheelers in India.  

For now, Bajaj Auto's battle continues in the conventional auto industry. Within it, the intensity of the battle is the most in the two-wheeler space. In a country of over 130 crore people that is India, the two-wheeler remains the most preferred choice for personal mobility, and will remain so for a long time. Therefore, more "more meaningful product innovation" will be key to sustain success.

Will go head to head with Mahindra Treo

As and when it rolls out, Bajaj Auto's electric three-wheeler will taken on the electric Mahindra Treo which is manufactured at the Mahindra Electric plant in Bangalore. The Treo range has pricing starting at Rs 136,000 (ex-showroom Bangalore). 

The Treo range of electric three-wheelers uses Mahindra Electric’s home-grown powertrain and maintenance-free lithium ion battery. The variants include Treo electric auto and Treo Yaari electric rickshaw, both available in the industry-first, hard-top, weather-proof variants.

Also read: Bajaj Auto on a roll in FY2019​

Mahindra bets big on e-mobility, opens new EV tech plant, launches Treo 3W at Rs 136,000

Mahindra & Mahindra ups stake in e-mobility


 

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