Opinion: Bajaj Freedom 125 - Opportunities, Challenges & Future

Published on 10 Jul, 2024, 10:04 AM IST
Updated on 10 Jul, 2024, 11:17 AM IST

Arun Nadar
Arun Mohan Nadar
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Bajaj Freedom 125

Can the Bajaj Freedom 125 revolutionise the commuter bike segment?

Bajaj Auto disrupted the Indian two-wheeler market by introducing the world’s first production CNG motorcycle in the form of the Freedom 125. Ever since its introduction, the CNG bike has created a lot of buzz among Indian bikers as Bajaj claims that the Freedom 125 halves the running cost in comparison to a petrol-powered 125 cc motorcycle. Apart from the reduction in running cost, the CNG bike is friendlier to our environment as it emits less harmful gases. With pricing starting at under ₹ 1 lakh (ex-showroom), Bajaj Auto has the potential to rattle the commuter motorcycle segment but the journey wouldn’t be an easy one. 

The Opportunity

The biggest advantage of employing CNG as a fuel is that it costs less than petrol and thereby helps reduce the running cost. No wonder then CNG car sales have increased massively over the past few years. Bajaj claims the Freedom 125 can deliver 102 km/kg of CNG, which is a significantly higher number when compared to petrol-powered commuter bikes thereby offering the rider a cost advantage. 

How much is the actual cost saving compared to an ICE motorcycle? Read here. Given the fact that commuter motorcycles in general have become very expensive and the cost of petrol also has breached the ₹ 100 mark, many buyers were switching to electric two-wheelers and the CNG bike could reverse that trend. The other big advantage of a CNG motorcycle is that it’s more environmentally friendly than even the BS VI compatible petrol motorcycles. 

The Challenge

The biggest challenge with CNG is availability. Currently India has around 6,500 CNG filling stations across the country, in comparison there are over 80,000 petrol pumps. Clearly there is a huge disparity and this discrepancy is clearly visible courtesy the huge queues of vehicles lined up outside CNG pumps. In the fiscal year 2024, total sales of CNG vehicles stood at 9,40,000 units (a 38% spike in sales). This number will only keep increasing given the demand for CNG vehicles is rising and with the introduction of the Freedom 125, load on CNG pumps will only escalate. 

Bajaj Freedom 125 vs Honda Shine 125

Bajaj has launched the new bike only in Maharashtra and Gujarat as the CNG pump concentration is higher compared to other states in our country. So sales of the Freedom 125 will be restricted given the limited markets it can go on sale, but Bajaj has confirmed that it will be expanding sales of the CNG bike in other states in the near future. The other problem is safety, the general perception is that CNG vehicles are a bit unsafe owing to its highly flammable and volatile nature. This suspicion amplifies more when you’re literally sitting on the tank while riding the Freedom 125. To ensure the safety of its rider and vehicle, Bajaj Auto has undertaken 11 strenuous tests to give assurance to riders. 

The Future

Bajaj Auto has taken a huge gamble by introducing a CNG motorcycle, but when one looks at the current market scenario, the opportunity is present. Ever since COVID-19 pandemic hit us, recovery in the rural markets (target audience of commuter bikes) has been slow. This is clearly visible in the sales of commuter motorcycles which has witnessed a sharp decline post 2019. One of the main reasons is the high running costs for petrol-powered commuters because of rising fuel costs. The Bajaj CNG bike has the potential to address the running cost concern and the pricing isn’t also very high. 

Bajaj Freedom 125

With an above average monsoon expected in 2024, the commuter motorcycle market is hoping for a huge boost and this sentiment can help the Bajaj Freedom 125 too. Bajaj officials have also said that if the response for their CNG motorcycle is positive, the brand can introduce more new variants in the near future. If the CNG motorcycle segment does gather momentum, Bajaj will enjoy the first mover advantage as for rival brands to develop this technology wouldn’t be easy or quick. Bajaj has made a daring move, will the consumers reward this strategy and can the Freedom 125 bring about another ‘Hero Splendor moment’ in the commuter space is something only time will answer.

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Bajaj Freedom 125
Bajaj CNG Bike
CNG Bike Safety
Bajaj Auto