In a highly-competitive electric two-wheeler segment, startups are making headway and often leading sales. Traditional two-wheeler manufacturers are slowly entering the game, however, instead of offering multiple EV products, they have limited their offering to one product to optimise returns.
One such traditional automaker is Bajaj with the electric Chetak. Bajaj Auto decided that given the restraints that batteries have, a scooter platform works best, as it currently serves the purpose of what an electric scooter user wants. Seldom are scooters found on highways doing long commutes and given their popularity of being an effective commuter in the city, Bajaj decided to go with them.
“Scooters tend to operate predominantly in urban and in a restricted geography environment within the city or town. Scooters operate in tight geographies, and therefore the range is less of a constraint for a buyer or scooter compared to motorcycles. And given that we understand two-wheelers well, we figured scooters are first,” says Eric Vas, President (Urbanite Business), Bajaj.
When Bajaj started looking into this space, deciding a name was tricky, as “Any new technology is going to come with significant amounts of changes for the consumer. He doesn’t know how well the product works. He doesn’t know how long it will last. He doesn’t know the price value equation,” says Vas.
He adds, “So we looked at maximizing some of these issues and that’s how the chetak was born. What came out is a couple of things like a steel body rather than plastic, and certain other technologies, like an onboard charger. And when it came to steel and durability, we thought of the brand name we had within Bajaj, Chetak, which kind of stood for exceptional quality and value. We said, why not use that brand name.”
The steel body sets the Chetak EV apart from any of its competitors as Bajaj claims that it helps keep panel gaps consistent and intact for a much longer time than plastic — a fact that is true on closer inspection. Also, speaking on why Chetak’s design took the classic retro turn, Vas says, “I think this design works well in a country like India, there is a certain level of timeless appeal to this design, which doesn’t fade over a period of time.”
Close inspection reveals the amount of attention given to details such as the seat for example — it does not slam shut when open. Instead, it eases down to a close. The wheels are exposed, adding depth to the design, while the solid gear transmission is more durable than hub motors seen on many electric scooters. Also, the onboard charger keeps the vehicle safe from mishaps during charging and the simple three-pin socket allows the Chetak to be charged anywhere, indirectly making Bajaj make use of the largest EV charging infrastructure available.