It aims to have a comprehensive range which will cover the cargo, the small passenger and large passenger vehicle segments

Mumbai, NFAPost: Bajaj Auto, India’s biggest three-wheeler manufacturer, will make its debut in the electric three-wheeler space next quarter to challenge the dominance of Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M).

The Pune-based company, which has been testing its indigenously developed battery-powered there-wheelers since the past few years said it will launch a range of electric three-wheelers suited for different applications.

Speaking to analysts, Bajaj Auto Executive Director Rakesh Sharma said, “The three-wheeler development is now nearing its final phase and we expect putting it up for approvals by end of this fiscal. We will launch them in the next quarter.”

Bajaj Auto which has a share of 62 percent in the fossil fuel-powered three-wheelers as per SIAM data, had initially planned to launch its electric three-wheelers two years ago but due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the company decided to hold back the launch.

While the electric three-wheeler debut could happen through the passenger carrier version (commonly called as autorickshaw), Bajaj Auto will progressively introduce other variants and body styles in due course.

“We will have a comprehensive range which will progressively cover the cargo, the small passenger and large passenger. We will be using our current brand name and try to flow over the enormous equity which we enjoy with the mechanics, drivers and fleet owners. We are gearing up dealer network to provide the support. These three-wheelers will come with telematics which will allow the fleet owners ability to manage the utilisation,” Sharma added.

With the reopening of schools and offices, demand for shared mobility like that for three-wheelers is rising again. As per SIAM data, three-wheeler sales (fossil fuel-powered) grew 34 per cent during the April-December quarter.

With the Centre and State governments pushing for electric mobility with financial incentives, demand for electric three-wheelers have been on an upswing.

According to the Federation of Automobile Dealer Association (FADA), sales of electric three-wheelers have doubled in December over the previous year.

Mahindra Electric Mobility, the EV division of M&M, has committed for the launch of four new models including three-wheelers with better drive range and payload capacity. The company claims a market share of 67 per cent in the electric three-wheeler segment.

Bajaj Auto will begin with fixed battery technology with its three-wheelers. This means that the batteries cannot be taken out for charging and can neither be swapped. This is done to keep the acquisition cost of the product down since battery costs remain high.

“At this point, with the kind of numbers expected in three-wheelers, we feel that the battery swapping approach is going to drive up the capital expenditure. Because till the time the number does not cross the critical high you need to have twice the number of batteries in the system as there are vehicles,” Sharma added.

“The current cost of batteries having 2X number of batteries per vehicle will drive up the capital expenditure of the vehicle. It does not matter who pays for it but it will be recovered one way or other. Till the time this does not cross that critical numbers where the ratio comes down to 1.2X or so it does not make sense in the three-wheeler to have swappable approach,” Sharma added.

Bajaj Auto, however, is working on the battery swapping technology and hopes to employ this technology in three-wheelers in future.

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