The traditional vs modern: EV battle between Bajaj Chetak and Ather 450
After being absent from the scooter segment for 14 years, Bajaj is back with a fully electric vehicle – the Chetak. The only other scooter that directly competes with Chetak's specification is the already existing Bengaluru-based Ather 450.
Bajaj was the undisputed leader in the Indian scooter market back in the 70s, 80, and 90s with products like the Priya, Super and Chetak. It later switched to be a motorcycle only company after the fall in demand for geared scooters in the country.
Ather Energy, on the other hand, is a startup founded in 2013 with its first product launched in 2018. The company has received funding from Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal, Tiger Global and Hero MotorCorp.
Let's scrutinise some of the specifications of the two e-scooters.
Design and features
When it comes to design, Bajaj Chetak has a retro in the image of the original Chetak scooter. However, the look has been complemented with the help of modern equipment such as a digital display, LED lighting, feather-touch switchgear, and keyless access.
It even carries some design inspiration from the Vespa family of scooters.
Further, its digital display can be connected via Bluetooth with both Android and iOS devices. Along with that, the smartphone app provides additional features such as disallowed movement of your vehicle, status of your battery, and accident detection.
On the other hand, Ather 450 kept its design contemporary with a seven-inch touchscreen display (IP65 rated) and an onboard navigation (map style layout), along with an auto indicator, app-based service booking, doorstep pickup and drop for servicing, a dashboard, document storage, and ‘guide me home’ lights.
Additionally, the Ather 450 comes with standard LED lights.
While the Hero MotoCorp-backed Ather 450 looks straight out of a sci-fiction flick, the Bajaj Chetak brings a balance between the traditional and the future.
Battery and performance
Bajaj says that the Chetak uses a 4 kW motor, which produces 16 Nm of maximum torque. The vehicle has been limited to a top speed of 60 kmph. Chetak uses a 3kWh battery, which gives a range of 95 km in Eco mode and 85 km in Sport Mode.
To have a quick acceleration it consists of an intuitive kickdown mode. The company also claims that the Chetak Electric can produce a high power output continuously without any consequential heating issues.
The Ather 450, on the other hand, boasts of a higher peak power and maximum torque of 5.4 kW and 20.5 Nm respectively. The top speed stands at 80 km/h in Sport Mode, 65 km/h in Ride Mode, and 45 km/h in Eco Mode, with a range of 75 km, 65 km, and 55 km respectively.
The Bengaluru-based startup has recently announced that it will be launching a limited edition Ather 450X, which will be faster than the standard variant.
The battery pack of both the e-scooters is fixed but while Chetak’s battery takes five hours to get fully charged, Ather claims that its battery takes five hours and 30 minutes to charge.
However, Bajaj will not be setting up a charging infrastructure at the moment and will be supplying a single charger at the time of purchase.
Ather Energy, apart from the charger supplied during purchase, is setting up a grid for a fast charging infrastructure that will allow customers to charge their scooters at a nearby coffee shop or mall.
To operate shock absorption tasks, Chetak uses a link-type front suspension at the front and also a single spring at the back. There are also two variants – Urbane and Premium.
In the Urbane, there are drum brakes on both wheels and in the Premium, there is a disc brake at the front and a drum brake at the rear. The scooter also boasts of a single-sided swingarm.
On the contrary, Ather 450 functions on disc brakes on both wheels, giving a better-stopping power. It is fitted with a telescopic fork at the front and a mono-shock at the shock absorption setup.
As opposed to the Chetak, the Ather 450 is available in a single variant. A more affordable Ather 340 was recently discontinued due to low demand.
Availability and Price
Bajaj Chetak is only available in Bengaluru and Pune currently. The booking is open from January 15, 2020, and the online booking option is available, with a token amount of Rs 2,000.
The Chetak Urbane and Premium variants are priced at Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.15 lakh respectively (both prices ex-showroom Pune including subsidies).
Ather 450 is available only in Bengaluru and in Chennai. In Bengaluru, it is priced at Rs 1.13 lakh whereas, in Chennai, it has a price tag of Rs 1.22 lakh (both prices on-road, including government subsidies).
However, it is important to note that the prices of both the scooters do not include insurance or registration charges.
Both companies plan to expand to other cities in future. While Bajaj has not yet announced its expansion plans, the company has a vast network of existing Bajaj and KTM dealerships. This will trickle down to a huge advantage for Bajaj as Ather Energy will have to expand to greenfield dealerships or experience centres.
Meanwhile, Ather Energy has confirmed that it will be operational in Mumbai by mid-2020. Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata will be added soon to its plans after that. The startup is aiming to mark its presence in 10 cities by end-2020 and 35 cities in the next three years.
Both the Bajaj Chetak and Ather 450 are supported by Bluetooth connectivity for rides. Also, they are equipped with LED headlamps as well as tail lamps along with touch-operated instrument clusters.
While their availability is limited to two cities, what really sets the two apart is their marketing strategies.
While the Chetak will catch onto the new trend of retailing a product digitally, it has an inherent advantage in terms of brand recall value. Bajaj Chetak is a household name in India, thanks to the erstwhile two-stroke model.
Back in the 80s and 90s, Chetak was one of the most sought after two-wheeler models in India.
If Bajaj decides to expand the Chetak to the rural market, it will face much lesser resistance than Ather. However, with its marketing plan aimed at metros and Tier-I cities, Ather leads the pack with over a year of operational advantage when it comes to electric scooters.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)