In a time when several startups in the automotive industry are making electric scooters, some have had success while others have earned a bad reputation. Established two-wheeler manufacturers have waited it out and instead of launching multiple products, they’ve launched one electric vehicle, to learn more and test the waters.
One such vehicle is the Bajaj Chetak electric scooter – which for some reason brings back the old “Hamara Bajaj” soundtrack in a remixed manner to suit the current day – which features a timeless design with modern tech.
What’s in the name?
To better understand the new Chetak EV, we need to know the Chetak itself. Named after the legendary horse of the great Indian warrior Maharana Pratap, the original Chetak, produced from 1972 onwards, was sold globally. In India, the scooter had a waiting period of up to 10 years in 1980, and by 1983, Bajaj sold over 5 lakh units of the scooter.
As the years passed, the Chetak still had a waiting period of over a year in 1987 and by 1995, Bajaj had sold over 10 crore units of the Chetak. The two-stroke engine was the soul of the Chetak till 2004 when it eventually got a four-stroke engine. Later, Bajaj discontinued the scooter altogether.
The second coming
With electric mobility gaining popularity in India, Bajaj decided to work on an electric vehicle and the new Chetak was born. Bajaj claims that the scooter platform is perfect for EVs and decided to go with the ‘Chetak’ name. Eric Vas, the President of electric vehicles at Bajaj says, “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 first thing that catches one’s eye is the design of the Chetak. It features a classic design with a round headlight and swooping bodywork that gives it a timeless design — a win for me. The body is all metal adding to the weight of the scooter, however, once off the stand, the 132 kg mass is hardly felt.
The choice to with an all-metal construction has helped Bajaj keep panel gaps consistent. The use of metal also ensures that none of the panels will go loose over time and they last considerably longer compared to plastic parts. In terms of design and impression, the Chetak gets a double thumbs up.
Powering the Chetak EV is a 3 kWh battery pack that delivers 16 Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a solid gear drive system that has no belts or chains. The result is a smooth ride in city conditions and on open roads. The Chetak has three drive modes, Eco, Sports, and Reverse. The former two can be manually selected, or the Chetak detects the need for more power and switches to Sports mode automatically.
On a full charge, the Chetak offers a range of 80km, and in our tests, we got a consistent range of ~70km in city conditions, with the Eco and Sports modes switching automatically. The Chetak takes around 5 hours to completely juice up the battery, which is sufficient for regular city use.
The scooter gets an onboard charger, meaning the scooter can be plugged in anywhere to charge as long as there is a three-pin socket. The scooter can be charged overnight, however, one needs to have parking to do so, which is a concern for most EV users. The battery is non-removable, and the charging port sits under the seat, which can be locked when charging.
A ‘tension’ to details
The Chetak has a simple instrument cluster, no touch screen, no music, and is straight to the point. Vehicle info is clear and one can also pair the smartphone to access more connected features. The Chetak shifts to neutral once the side stand is on, which gets a thumbs up from my end.
The Chetak uses a key fob, meaning there is no physical key to open the boot or the front storage. The start/stop button plays multiple functions: a single press to power on, a double press to turn everything off, and a long press to lock the handlebar. The under-seat storage and the front compartment can be accessed with dedicated buttons on the switchgear.
Speaking of the switches, the Chetak has many of them. The soft-touch buttons feel great to use, however, using the indicators is cumbersome. Instead of a traditional toggle switch, the Chetak has a dedicated left and right indicator switch, located on either side, meaning the right turn signal switch is on the right side console. This will need a lot of getting used to.
Staying with the turn signals, the Chetak has an auto-off function for them, and the indicator turns off as soon as the handlebar is straightened. This is good to use in the city, however, when leaned over in a corner at decent speeds, the scooter doesn’t detect the handlebar position to turn off the blinkers.
Who should buy the Chetak?
The Bajaj Chetak is a premium offering, and its 1.51 lakh ex-showroom price puts it high up on the ladder, making it more expensive than the Ather 450 X. The limited range of ~70km is sufficient for city use, but anything longer needs planning. Also, the top speed of 70kmph is something to think about. The Chetak is a perfect choice for those looking for a premium scooter to ride in the city.