If you are struggling with the pronunciation of the title, you are not alone. It took us a while to get it right, too. But once we did, we couldn’t stop repeating it. And no wonder why – this is the most controversial phenomenon in the auto industry since Elon Musk first introduced his idea of  Tesla.

If you haven’t had any encounters with the Bajaj Qute yet, let us introduce it to you. And if you think it is just a new car brand with a weird name – you are wrong. The Qute may be many things, but it is definitely not a car. Think of it as a cross between a three-wheeler and a traditional car.

It is India’s first ‘quadricycle’.

The quadricycle

This is a completely new category of vehicles for India. Europe and the rest of the world are already familiar with similar concepts, yet this is a first for Asia. The Indian government approved this vehicle category in June 2018. It differs from other commercial and private vehicles based on the norms and regulations it has to fit in.

These small personal mobility vehicles have a weight limit of less than 475 kg and have to meet crash and emissions norms. This is all that we know for now. The Automotive Research Association Of India – ARAI and the government are yet to set the exact regulations. The government has also approved of full electric or hybrid quadricycles, and those, too, will have to go through its own set of tests to meet roadworthiness.

In June, the government approved quadricycles for commercial use only. Later in November, however, the officials issued a permit for private use as well. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has added quadricycles into the “non-transport” category of vehicles.

This opens the way for a new segment of affordable four-wheelers for Indian families.

Bajaj Auto vs automakers

Naturally, current auto brands on the market have little tolerance for newcomers like Qute. Traditional automakers do not fancy Bajaj Auto because of its innovative approach to a rather conservative category and persistency with government officials.

Automakers have gone so far as to dispute the roadworthiness of quadricycles the in Supreme Court. This is exactly what happened when Bajaj Auto made their first attempt to launch a quadricycle. The Bajaj Qute RE60 was first unveiled in 2012 but could not be launched as Bajaj’s rivals went to Court citing safety concerns.

Automakers’ biggest issue with the vehicle is its lightness. Quadricycles weigh almost half as much as entry-level small cars. This raises a question about the safety of the vehicle. How secure is it to ride in such a light vehicle when you are surrounded by thousands of other cars?

Somehow the chances of a crash with harmful injuries seem greater in a quadricycle. People in smaller vehicles such as two-wheelers tend to squeeze in between larger vehicles to get ahead. From that perspective, it doesn’t seem like a very good idea to have quadricycles out in the streets.

Yet, quadricycles have smaller and more frugal engines and are equipped with basic features. This makes them much more efficient in their fuel consumption and quite cost-effective for their users.

The Bajaj Qute

The Qute will be on the streets of India later this March. Finally. It is the first solution to the need for safe, low-cost transportation for people in India. Its first version is already quite suitable for daily commuting.

According to the manufacturer, the Qute will do 35km/liter in the petrol version and 43km/kg in the CNG version with a maximum speed of 70 kmph. The Qute gets a 217cc, 4-stroke spark-ignition, single-cylinder engine, making for 13 bhp and 19.6 Nm of torque. This mini has an 8-liter petrol tank and a 5-speed manual transmission. It meets the European Standards and Guidelines of Quadricycle for quality and design. As a matter of fact, it has a carbon footprint that is 37% less than that of the smallest car available.

When it comes to after-sale costs, the vehicle is quite easy to maintain. The fact that it is entirely made in India makes it easy for people to get new parts. The maintenance cost is comparable with a 3–wheeler.

Even though the Qute is just about to launch in India, it has been quite popular abroad. The company has been exporting the model since 2016. Some of the countries that have expressed an interest in the model include Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, and Peru.

It is quite peculiar that the government of India has only allowed the vehicle to be sold in the country now while others have been using it for some time already. This is still a surprise for Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Auto. According to him, the government’s procedures are quite frustrating.

“If your innovation in the country depends on the Government approval or the judicial process,” he says, “it will not be a case of ‘Made in India’, but ‘Mad in India’.” This is the only country that has made the company wait so long before giving permission to sell the vehicles.

Automakers after the Qute

Bajaj Auto is currently the only Indian company to manufacture quadricycles. Yet, now that the government has acknowledged quadricycles as official and legit means of transportation, automakers are willing to accept it, too.

In fact, they are reopening their own projects for quadricycles. The first company that showed interest in the market after Bajaj Auto is Mahindra and Mahindra. It now has two offerings – Udo and Atom. The two models were introduced at the Auto Expo in New Delhi and are now in test-marketing.

Tata Motors and the India branch of Piaggio Vehicles are also looking into the segment. Globally, Piaggio Vehicles was the first automaker to introduce a quadricycle, so they surely have some experience that will be of advantage.

Automakers say that price-value proposition will be the key determinant of the success and potential of quadricycles in India. Both in the personal and commercial vehicle segments. Experts in the field argue that even though this is a helpful type of transport, it doesn’t make good economic sense.

The quadricycle only becomes attractive when it is driven for 100-200km. This means that it will be more practical for commercial than private use.

What the future holds for India

Inevitably, questions will arise once the quadricycles really hit the streets. The fact that these small vehicles are now being allowed on Indian roads also raises the question of who can drive them.

Would the Indian Government allow teenagers between the ages of 16-18 to drive these small urban cars with a special license category? People are still uncertain whether they should see this as three-wheelers or cars.

Europe went through similar the dilemma. What makes the question even more important is the fact that the use of electric scooters by this age group without a permanent license has already been approved. So will this help the teenagers’ transportation needs or will it create a burden for others on the roads?

I guess we will have to wait to find out.

Is quadricycle the new compact?

Bajaj Auto insists the Qute is not here to replace the three-wheeled auto rickshaw. Bajaj’s thinking is that while cars, by virtue of their specifications, are suited to travel in the city, even the smallest ones are too big, too heavy, and too expensive to run for the average city commute.

Three-wheelers, on the other hand, offer great maneuverability and low running costs but lack adequate all-weather protection and are simply not the vehicle of choice for private buyers.

But is this the way future compact cars will look like, too? The fact that other countries are adopting the vehicle makes us wonder about their expansion. Is this how we will be moving around in the whole world?

At first, it seems like this type of vehicle is suitable for developing countries where the population is dense and mobility is quite chaotic. But is this the case in Western Europe and the USA, too?

Quadricycles in the West

As a matter of fact, the concept of quadricycles has been around since the 19th century when Henry Ford introduced the Ford Quadricycle. And recently more and more companies in the West are reestablishing the concept.

France is one of the countries where the government has shown huge support for quadricycles as a means to fight traffic congestion in big cities. The concept is now even more attractive for automakers in the category of electric vehicles.

Renault, for example, introduced its Renault Twizy quadricycle – an EV with a 100kg battery and a motor just under 20bhp. Its official range is 62 miles, yet 50 seems more realistic to most drivers.

The latest electric quadricycle is the SEAT Minimo, introduced at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain. It shares similar performance characteristics with the Twizy. We find a lot of similarities even in the exterior!

The new Citroen AMI ONE is another electric vehicle in the same category – quite different in looks from the two mentioned above. At 425 kg, it is even lighter than the Twizy (450kg). The company states it is quite suitable for 16-year-olds who need to get around the city – something that is still a question in India.

In practice, even though these vehicles fall in the category of EVs, they cannot compete with other popular electric models. While quadricycles are good for short inter-city trips, they are rather impractical for longer travel. When it comes to comparing them with other means of transportation, however, they can be quite a nice compact win. And to be honest, we find the Qute the cutest of them all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here