The festive season of 2019 is when Bajaj Auto will go back to its roots of building scooters. But this time around, Bajaj will approach scooters in a completely different way. The two wheeler giant plans to re-enter the scooter segment with an electric scooter. The new brand of electric two wheelers from Bajaj will be called Urbanite, and it’s been set up to build and market attractive electric two wheelers that Rajiv Bajaj claims will be the Tesla equivalent of two wheelers.
While Bajaj is yet to reveal the exact shape and performance that the new electric scooter will have, the timeline for launch has been confirmed by a director at Bajaj Auto, Mr Rakesh Sharma. Here’s what he had to say about the Urbanite electric vehicle brand to MoneyControl.
“The Urbanite will hopefully start to make an appearance in 6-9 months. We will present it in a small way and then sort of build it up… With the Urbanite we are really trying to look at innovative and very futuristic intra-city mobility solutions. We’re starting with two-wheelers because that’s the natural way of thinking for us. But I would not rule out other formats. We will look at a separate network for this (electric vehicles) because that needs to be presented very differently to a very different target group.”
Currently, the most advanced electric scooter sold in India is built by Bangalore-based electric mobility start up called Ather Energy. Promoted by Hero MotoCorp, Ather Energy produces the S340 electric scooter that’s sold in two variants but whose sales are currently limited to a single city – Bangalore. In the next few months, Ather plans to expand into other cities of India but the slow expansion shows how limited the demand for electric vehicles is.
Although electric scooters have been around in India for a few years now, mass market adoption has not yet taken off in a big way. The twin problems of a poor range and lack of widespread battery charging infrastructure have been major bottlenecks that are restricting the growth of electric two wheelers. In the coming years, all this could change as the biggies of the two wheeler industry such as Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors are readying up electric scooters for the Indian market.
Once the bigger players get into this segment, the market for electric vehicle is likely to expand quickly. For now though, the Ather S340 remains the only aspirational, Tesla-like electric vehicle in the two wheeler space. Bajaj wants to change this with the Urbanite brand, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Pune-based two wheeler giant manages to do this.