Exclusive: Bajaj CNG bike may roll out in 6-12 months, Co. mulls several cleaner powertrains
Co. is studying LPG, CNG, Ethanol blended fuel options across the portfolio, from two wheelers to quadricycles in the coming few years.
Having carved out a space for itself in the electric two-wheeler market with the Chetak, Bajaj Auto, the country’s second-largest two-wheeler maker is planning to add Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Ethanol blended fuel options across the portfolio, from two-wheelers to quadricycles in the coming few years.
The aim is to offer affordable alternatives that are low on running cost and cleaner on the environment.
Autocar Professional learns that a CNG cum petrol bike internally codenamed Bruzer E101 is almost in the final stages of development and if all goes well, the product may hit the roads as early as six months to a year. The first few prototype vehicles have already been made and the plan is to produce the 110 cc bike at its Aurangabad factory to begin with, and eventually produce it out of its Pant Nagar facility too. The brand name of Platina is being explored for the same.
Declining to share the specifics of a product, Rakesh Sharma, ED, Bajaj Auto told Autocar Professional that over the last few years Bajaj Auto has recognised and internalised the twin challenges the country faces of reducing the import bill and reducing pollution.
He reminded how Bajaj was the pioneer of sorts in adapting 3Ws to CNG and LPG, and today in the passenger three-wheeler segment the company commands a 90% share due to its tech capabilities, early moves, and collaboration with PSUs.
“We certainly want to extend this capability to cover 2ws which is not easy due to space, size and usage differences. We definitely want to expand the share of “cleaner fuels” in our portfolio which includes the full spectrum of EV, ethanol, LPG and CNG. You can be sure of this in both 2WS and 3Ws - this alignment with society and government is very important for us,” added Sharma.
While the initial production plan was to produce about 1-1.2 lakh vehicles of CNG bikes per annum, this has been revised upwards to about 2 lakh units and above.
On specific product queries, Sharma claimed, “The numbers, timelines, brand names and specs mentioned are way off the mark. For obvious reasons I cannot provide you corresponding details, they are also not material till the time they are finalised.”
Recently, Rajiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto had told CNBC TV-18 in an interview, “Who knows maybe a CNG Bajaj motorcycle that halves people's (bike) running costs would be the answer with a little help from the government,” suggesting that a CNG motorcycle could address the affordability challenge the 100-110 cc segment is facing.
With a little help from the government, Bajaj hinted at a lower GST, which will ensure that the ticket price too is accessible for the entry two-wheeler buyers.
The car makers like Maruti Suzuki have already voiced their request to the government to bring down the GST rate on the CNG vehicles down to 18% as it is not only cleaner, but higher on fuel efficiency and it also solves the problem of fuel bill imports.
To be sure, the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations or FADA has already urged the central government to review GST for the two wheeler segment, which is yet to scale to a previous peak.
The entry two-wheeler segment -i.e. 100-110 cc grew at almost half a pace at 5 percent versus a double-digit growth witnessed by the overall two-wheeler segment. The share of the segment has slipped to about a third of the overall market versus almost 45 percent of the entire two-wheeler segment half a decade back.
Also, the vehicle prices at the entry segment have almost shot up by 20-30 percent on account of BS-VI norms, safety standards, and the increased insurance cost, thereby making it out of reach for many entry-segment buyers, whose incomes have remained under stress post-Covid-19.
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