Bajaj Auto to enter electric three-wheelers in FY22, working on electric Qute too


The COVID-19 pandemic became the biggest reason for the delay in its launch, but things are looking up with the reopening of schools, offices and commercial spaces like shops and malls

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After a delay of two years, Bajaj Auto will commercially launch its first electric three-wheeler in the second half of the 2022 financial year (FY), a top company official said.

The Pune-based company, which is the market leader in the passenger three-wheeler segment – also known as auto rickshaw – had earlier planned to launch the vehicle in 2019, followed by the introduction of its first electric two-wheeler.

While the electric Chetak, which was launched in January 2020, ultimately became the first battery-powered vehicle by Bajaj Auto, the introduction of the electric three-wheeler was postponed.

The COVID-19 pandemic became the biggest reason for the delay in the launch of the Bajaj electric three-wheeler as there was widespread shortage of battery cells and the common aversion of commuters to use three-wheelers for fear of contracting the disease.

While the two-wheeler segment has returned to pre-COVID levels, the demand for three-wheelers is getting back on track too with the reopening of schools, offices and other commercial spaces like shops and malls.

Bajaj is thus planning a range of electric three-wheelers for roll-out. In addition, the company is also working on the electric version of the Qute, the quadricycle which Bajaj Auto had launched a few years ago.

Rakesh Sharma, executive director, Bajaj Auto said, “We are actively pursuing a broad programme of building three-wheelers and the Qute on our electric platform. The market will see a range of electric three-wheelers making their appearance commercially the next financial year, in the second half”.

As of FY20, Bajaj Auto had a market share of 57 percent of the three-wheeler segment.

The organised electric passenger three-wheeler space is dominated by Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M). Italian auto brand, Piaggio, also entered the segment nearly two years ago. Lohia Auto, Kinetic Green and Atul Auto are some of the other players from the organised sector. TVS Motor Company, another major competitor in the petrol three-wheeler space, is set to enter the segment with an electric three-wheeler in 2021-22.

“The prototypes are under test. We can address range anxiety and operational profitability for the drivers. The issue is less about launching an electric three-wheeler, which can be very easily done. But we want to study it carefully and capture all the positive developments in terms of cost reductions”, Sharma added.

Due to the large presence of unorganised players who import the electric three-wheeler in parts from China, the exact market size in India of electric three-wheelers is not known.

In FY19, the segment sales of electric three-wheelers at 6.3 lakh overtook even the fossil-fuel powered three-wheeler sales at 5.72 lakh in the same year, as per data shared by the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicle (SMEV).

The boom in demand for electric three-wheelers is due to the low costs of ownership and operation. As per estimates, the running cost of an electric three-wheeler is around Rs 0.5 per km compared to Rs 4-5 for a petrol-powered three-wheeler.

With the ever-increasing price of fossil fuels, three-wheeler owners have favourably switched to battery-powered three-wheelers to save on costs.