Homegrown two-wheeler major Bajaj Auto on Tuesday launched the electric version of its iconic Chetak scooter that had ruled the Indian two-wheeler landscape for three decades between 1972 and 2006.
With this, Bajaj also re-enters the scooter segment, a category it had ruled for much of the 70s and 80s but had then relinquished in 2006 as it shifted its focus purely to motorcycles. Priced at Rs 1 lakh for the base Urbane variant that gets drum brakes and Rs 1.15 lakh for the Premium version with disc brakes, bookings for the electric Chetak begin from Wednesday and to begin with will be available in four dealerships in Pune and 13 dealerships in Bangalore. The prices are inclusive of the subsidies applicable for electric vehicles in both the markets and exclusive of insurance and road tax. Additionally, Bajaj will also provide a home-charging station which is included in the package.
Customer can book the vehicle for Rs 2,000 in Pune and Bangalore and deliveries are expected to commence by end of February. At the heart of the new Chetak is an IP67 rated 3 Kwh Lithium-Ion battery with NCA cells. There are two driving modes on offer-Eco and Sport, with a range of 85 kilometre and 95 kilometre respectively. The battery is charged using a standard household 15 amp electrical outlet and it takes about 5 hours to charge it fully.
The company said the vehicle requires minimal maintenance with a service interval of 12,000 kilometres or one year (whichever is earlier) and comes with an overall warranty of 3 years or 50,000 kilometres (whichever is earlier) inclusive of the Lithium-Ion battery.
"The return of the legendary Chetak now in a modern electric avatar is indeed a proud moment for all of us at Bajaj Auto. From 15th Jan, 2020 onwards Chetak will be available in 2 cities and this will mark the commencement of a new era in two-wheeler mobility," said Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director, Bajaj Auto. "We are confident that Chetak will set absolutely new benchmark standards of clean tech driven, elegant and a delightful ownership experience shaping the very future of personal commuting and building hamara kal."
While a number of new entrants and startups like Ather Energy, Revolt Motors. Okinawa and Twenty Two Motors have launched electric two-wheelers in the last 2 years, Bajaj is the first established mass-market two-wheeler manufacturer to foray into this segment.
"We are engineers who do our own work. We are not a battery or a steel maker or a failed two-wheeler company. We are a company with a very rich past, a strong track record and a rich legacy. It is this credibility that gives us a solid foundation to make a foray into the future," Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj had said in October in New Delhi when the vehicle was first unveiled.
"Sometimes when it comes to creating new things there is anxiety whether it will work. In the context of EVs, the question is on whether the customer is ready, in charging infrastructure, and whether it is viable and practical. Nevertheless, our belief is if we are not the first or at worst second to the market then we will lose the market forever. It is with this attitude that we have decided to move into the future of EVs with the Chetak."
At its peak, the Chetak enjoyed unprecedented popularity with waiting periods exceeding 10 years and a resale value greater than its purchase price. In its 34 year stint, more than 1.3 crore Chetaks were sold in India. In the new avatar, the timeless design of the vehicle has been updated with features like LED headlight with DRLs, electronic switches, sequential scrolling LED blinkers and a large digital console intuitively displays vehicle information with crisp clarity.
The Indian government has been pushing the automobile industry towards electric mobility and policy to move to 100 per cent e-mobility for two-wheelers between 2023 and 2025 was also mooted earlier this year. It was, however, disbanded following intense pushback from the industry. Bajaj was at the forefront in that.
"My only disagreement (with NitiAyog) was when a policy was proposed for a very rapid conversion to 100 per cent EVs by 2023 and 2025. Thankfully that prospect seems to have faded. But after that brahmastra was sent, 50 per cent of my thinking time was occupied by EVs since June 21," Bajaj said. "If 50 per cent of my mind is on EVs today, in reality too it will be 50 per cent soon. We are constantly trying to align ourselves with the government's policies."Also Read: Tata Nexon facelift to launch at Auto Expo 2020; BS-VI model to cost additional Rs 1.4 lakh