So what’s all the fuss about electric motorcycles these days? That’s a question I’ve asked myself a few times, never having ridden one.
However Savic Motorcycles – an Australian company developing a line of electric motorcycles – recently had their prototype doing some runs at Pie in the Sky and I was lucky enough to head along and take a couple of passes, to get an idea.
My reaction after riding the Savic Motorcycles C-Series prototype? ‘Wow’… and a giant grin plastered over my face. Considering we’re talking a motorcycle which makes no noise, has no gears, no clutch and is also a prototype with a number of features missing, that’s pretty high praise as first impressions go.
Taking a look at the Savic Motorcycles C-Series, the bike consists of a big 16.2 kWh battery box, with a little liquid-cooled SM1 motor bolted to it, capable of 200 Nm.
An ultra simple front end comprises beefy Wilbers forks, Brembo stoppers, futuristic projector headlights, and very simple bars and dash.
At the rear you’ve got a sparse, exposed chassis with highly visible Wilbers shock, single-sided swingarm, belt drive along with a café racer styled styled seat and tail.
You could think that would look or feel a bit… incomplete, but nothing is further from the truth, clad in carbon-fibre bodywork the Savic Motorcycles C-Series prototype is an absolute looker.
Simple, elegant, mean. There’s real presence there. Granted… I’m a sucker for carbon-fibre, and that is an extra over the standard options that will set you back another $3k.
The bike weighs in at a hefty 280 kg though. The power output is quoted at 60 kW, and the prototype is running what approximates the standard or road ride mode that will be run in the actual production version from what I understand.
So this should be fairly close to what’s offered on the version customers get, which in turn will get more mode options.
So what stood out? In rough order of what I found most interesting…
The C-Series is an auto, you basically put it in drive, make sure it’s not in reverse, and roll on that throttle to go. It’s like a CVT scooter in essence, except there’s no feeling of take-up, that torque is much much smoother, and take-off is seriously refined. There’s no gears to transition through. Ok so it’s not really like a scooter…
It is super weird not needing to feather the clutch or worry about the gearbox though… However Savic Motorcycles have got that take-off very well tuned. Maybe not the direct feel you’d expect from an ICE motorcycle, but very refined and controllable.
The bike feels very planted – like an MT-10 or EBR 1190 – when jumping on board and getting it off the side stand. Taking off, the bike feels seriously solid, but that translates into stability and a real feeling of road holding, again mirroring these machines.
Heading down from Pie in the Sky through the bends everything feels pretty natural, I’m up to the 80 km/h speed limit within a bend or two and everything is feeling real good.
Then I run into the first corner and remember the prototype doesn’t have the regenerative braking system running, so there’s no engine braking. That’ll be tuneable on the final version, but I’ve never ridden a two-stroke, so no engine braking into a corner is another strange sensation indeed. I’m just used to snapping it down a gear or two into the corners when not braking heavily.
As a result it’s all about using those impressive Brembo stoppers to wash off speed to more closely approximate what I’d be doing normally. Not that washing off the speed is really that necessary, but I’m still learning the C-Series at this point and I don’t want to be their first crash test dummy by getting cocky.
I was probably riding that rear brake a bit on the downhill run with no engine braking, and wasn’t really going fast enough to get much compression on the forks though when getting onto the brakes, which I’d have liked.
I’d imagine the bike is set-up for someone heavier than my 70 kg plus gear frame, although my being a bit lighter probably helps offset the weight of the bike in that equation. With that all aside the ride was super refined here and I’d be interested to see if the bike retains that on worse roads, while pushing harder.
The C-Series has quite a fluid feel too, which might just be my brain trying to figure out the feedback I was getting, with the battery comprising most of that weight, and being able to feel the rest of the chassis moving around it over the road inconsistencies. Not a bad sensation either… just different.
Turn in is deliberate but not necessarily heavy, and I found the lines a bit more arcing. In fact I’d probably say something like the FJR1300. Now some will no doubt take that as a criticism, but the FJR1300 can really move, and handles damn well as a heavy machine. The Savic Motorcycles C-Series’s seating position is just much sportier.
Ergos are a little more aggressive than I expected, but again very natural for me, and I realised later looking at my GoPro onboard footage, I was actually canted more forward as a rider than I thought… resulting in lots of footage of that tank with glimpses of where I’m heading.
I certainly didn’t feel cramped, or even like I was on a sportsbike on the C-Series, probably thanks to those clip-on style bars running quite significant risers, which really worked for me.
I also didn’t really move around on the bike that much, and kept my lean angles restrained. I was using my toes in my new set of Alpinestar CR-X DS shoes as a reference point for lean angle, and no obviously I wasn’t riding with balls of my feet on the pegs. Just regular style. Needless to say, I wasn’t trying to get a knee down.
Getting to the bottom of the hill and realising I needed to turn around was a bit of a double-take, no gears, no clutch and I needed to do a U-turn. So I just slowed down and did a – fairly wide – U-turn. No fuss, that throttle response and control made it as easy as can be, especially with the momentum the bike carries.
In fact the Savic Motorcycles C-Series would be seriously easy to learn to ride on, as you can’t stall. I mean sure… you can fall over, but you’d have to be trying.
So performance gets a mention this far down the list because it was a strange one. Acceleration is good, you open that throttle and after the initial gentle transition onto power from standstill the power ramps up nicely. Then you look down and realise you’re doing 80 or 100+ without even noticing, within a few seconds.
No gears make this a super simple equation, more throttle, more acceleration, and Savic Motorcycles have tuned the bike to feel very refined and controlled.
There’s no doubt the Savic Motorcycles C-Series is decently fast, however that’s more of a realisation when you glance down at the speedo, than a matter of the bike trying to rip your arms out of their sockets, lift the front wheel or otherwise scare you.
Whether that’d happen doing a top speed test run would be interesting to test. That said, I’d never guess the bike had anything close to 200 Nm, or even the 140 of the Delta, as it’s just not delivered in a comparable way to an ICE motorcycle.
There’s no doubt that the lack of exhaust and engine noise work against the bike too, as does the lack of gearbox and the engagement that adds to taking off wide-open-throttle. You’re just missing some of those riding cues which I think really add to that feeling, whether or not you’re really going that fast.
Certainly by my last pass, making the return to Pie in the Sky I was feeling much more confident and enjoying the performance, handling and overall package on offer, having a bit more of a crack heading up the hill.
Now keeping in mind this is a prototype I was blown away by just how good the Savic Motorcycles C-Series is. The level of refinement is out of this world, and I’d be happy owning the bike in prototype form. The dash needs to be brighter, and I wouldn’t mind the regenerative braking, but overall this is a seriously solid machine.
Granted the Savic Motorcycles C-Series ‘Alpha’ will set you back $26,990, which is Superbike money, but in some ways I’d have said this was the more usable bike for the road these days, if you’re happy to have a silent motorcycle, with no gears, and that needs charging between rides.
Range is apparently in excess of 200 km however the big thing with electrics, is that range seems to vary enormously by conditions, riding style, speed and more. But if you’re doing shorter loops and can get home within that range, or have a fun commute and can charge at work, this may be a non-issue.
Otherwise you need to find a charging point and possibly wait a lengthy period to be ready to go.
Servicing should also save you some money mid-term, which could be quite the boon, as long as you never reach the battery replacement life. I’d be interested to see what we could expect from the battery as far as life in years though. Harley offer a five year warranty with theirs and say it’ll last up to 10-years as a comparison point.
There’s also the lower performance and spec Delta version of the C-Series, dropping to 40 kW (from 60) with a smaller battery, which lands at $19,990.
Obviously for those who value the raucous sound track of an ICE vehicle, like shifting through the gearbox, two-minute fuel-ups or just want the most performance possible for their dollar, Savic’s motorcycles probably aren’t for you.
However if none of that is a sticking point, definitely check out Savic Motorcycles’ options, especially if you like being an early adopter and supporting an Australian business. There’s little doubt in my mind this motorcycle will wow.
Naturally there are range concerns depending on your riding habits, and the availability of charging points, however that’s just part of the equation in buying an electric motorcycle.
It’s a real testament to Savic Motorcycles and Dennis Savic just what they’ve done, and I can certainly see myself owning and riding a machine like this in the future.
Q & A with Dennis Savic – Founder & CEO of Savic Motorcycles
Kris: What inspired the C-Series, and the directions you took as far as performance and load-out?
Dennis Savic: “The design brief for the C-Series was ‘Timelessness’. Both Dave Hendroff (our lead designer) and I love timeless design, but we also wanted to stand out, and reflect the advanced technology that’s on the inside. So, starting with a cafe racer base was a no brainer, but how Dave managed to adapt that and sprinkle modern design elements over it is a true art form.
“The ‘performance target’ part of the equation was easy. The bike needed to perform to an acceleration level similar to what’s already out there, yet still be impressive. The secret sauce here is how we achieve those performance levels on a tight budget, while building a supply chain from the ground up, and while forecasting a profitable business in the future.”
Kris: A 6000 rpm limit was mentioned, with 80 horsepower, and an enormous 200 Nm of torque, was that rev limit a technical limitation or more of a choice how you balanced range and performance?
Dennis: “The motor was mechanically designed for a top speed of 6000RPM. Electrically, we are able to drive the motor upward of 8,000RPM, but we do not currently have enough test data to determine if this would be achievable reliably through the life of the vehicle. We may look to increase the top speed of the first production vehicles if we find that the motor is capable.
“Going into the future, updates may allow considerably higher top speeds. We are not opposed to increasing the top speed despite the impact this would have on range – it would not impact the range of the vehicle if operated at more typical speeds, and customers operating vehicles at higher speeds should expect to have drastically reduced range from what they would expect from typical commuter riding.”
Kris: What was your biggest challenge during development?
Dennis: “When designing a motorcycle from a blank sheet of paper without having 20 years of development experience in the industry, you’re going to have a pretty steep learning curve.
“We have had many challenges, from supply chain, engineering and business process development.
“But the team has overcome them. One by one, we focus on each problem, solve it, and keep looking forward towards our goals.
“We’ve built up a great team who are agile and learn quickly. We love our customers and riders and the feedback they give us and we can’t wait to keep going on this journey with them.”
Kris: Did you consider designing in, or adding, some form of audible cue to demonstrate when the bike is on?
Dennis: “This is a topic that comes up often. No/Low speed noises to notify pedestrians is not currently legislated in Australia but we already see it in parts of Europe, especially in high density population areas.
“We are exploring the potential / positive impacts that auditory feedback could provide for both the user experience and for safety purposes.”
Kris: What’s the next evolution or offering from Savic on the horizon, if that’s not being presumptuous? Can we expect to see something more beginner or commuter centric in the future?
Dennis: “We’re not yet ready to talk about all the exciting products we have in development but can mention that we have been working on a smaller Learner Approved electric motorcycle which we announced to our customers early last year.
“We’re pretty excited about it and it gives us the opportunity to engage with the next generation of Australian riders.”
Kris: Is the 25 kW limit for LAMS EVs in NSW much of an issue from a design perspective, or is that actually easier to meet?
Dennis: “Power limitation to achieve LAMS is very straightforward with electric vehicles. The issue with 25kW LAMs approved vehicles is more so in the business case – the market assumes a particular price limit for a vehicle of that specification.
“We’re working hard to ensure that our company remains profitable while still being able to produce the right bikes for the right riders at the right price. At the end of the day, we are a premium brand but we want to make our bike accessible to Australian riders as well.”
Kris: hat kind of price point will you be aiming for, with a beginner option, if it’s not too early to ask!
Dennis: “That’s not something we’re ready to disclose just yet. As mentioned above, we’re working hard to ensure the bike is of our high quality, accessible and still profitable to our business.”
Kris: Where do you see charging infrastructure going in Australia, or what kind of system do you hope to see supporting EVs?
Dennis: “We’ve seen charging infrastructure increasing quite dramatically over the last few years and it will continue to grow and the government has a big push on ‘destination’ chargers which will be great for some of the popular motorcycle riding roads around the country.
“We’ve also seen some interesting developments in large portable charging stations, which can be quickly installed at locations while work is being completed or if there is a need to get infrastructure in quickly.
“And in Sydney, we’ve seen some of the first ‘smart light poles’ where charging infrastructure has been installed on street light poles for those who don’t have a garage.
“And while the advancement in infrastructure is great, it’s not a barrier to entry for electric motorcycles. You don’t need any special charging equipment for a bike, you can charge by accessing any power point. And while the bike does take a little longer to charge on a standard wall outlet, think about how many power points there are already installed around Australia – we’ve almost got our charging network set up for us already!”
Kris: What’s your thoughts on swappable/modular battery tech, this seems to be gaining some traction for low performance EVs?
Dennis: “It makes sense for utility type vehicles that, from a business perspective, cannot afford to have any down time. When it comes to high-performance electric motorcycles like the C-Series, it’s much less feasible as the battery pack alone is just shy of 100kg – you’re not swapping that in a hurry. In addition, the battery is an important structural component of our motorcycle, so we’d have to redesign the bike, adding extra weight.
“Could we make the pack modular enough so that our bike does have hot swap technology? It’s possible, but you’re then adding tremendous cost and complexity to the bike. And real estate on a bike for components is very expensive. We design all our parts to be as light and as small as possible so that we can maximise the features we can give customers.”
Kris: What kind of drop off in capacity over time can riders expect to see over the 10-year, 100,000 km battery life?
Dennis Savic: “It’s hard for us to say because the motorcycle battery electric technology hasn’t experienced this yet. At the cell level, they perform tests that can somewhat be extrapolated to indicate what will happen at the vehicle level.
“The way in which cells are tested is on a charge / discharge cycle. Note that temperatures and all other conditions are fixed, and the charge / discharge cycles are constant and not as frantic as say motorcycle riding conditions. However, tests show that after 1000 cycles, the cells drop to 80% capacity and basically sit there through to the 5000th cycle when they stop testing.
“One “cycle” at the vehicle level is one charge and discharge of the full battery pack, so in theory, your pack will decrease to 80% the range and power (roughly speaking) and stay there until the 5000th cycle. If one cycle is 200km, then that’s 1,000,000km on the odometer.
“Once you factor in dynamic thermals (from the environment and the components internally) plus the erratic drive cycles (acceleration and regen), throw in a couple of fast charges (not currently available on the C-Series) and you’re impacting your pack life. To what extent, cannot be guaranteed until we have had our product in the market for 5 – 10 years.”
Kris: Do you think we’ll see any big jumps in battery performance in the near future, or does this seem like a stable position as far as the technology for now?
Dennis Savic: “With all of the development going into the battery sector at the moment, we expect to see some big breakthroughs in battery technology within the next 5 – 10 years.
“Having said that, it’s one thing to make a technological breakthrough, and it’s another to make that technology commercially viable. If a new technology is developed and determined to be scalable, what essentially needs to happen is a number of very large automotive companies need to commit to that technology to bring the unit price (per cell for example) down low enough for it to make sense.
“We’re continuing to monitor the battery landscape and have worked with the Australian government in response to their National Battery Strategy. We hope to see Australia become a leader in battery technology, but time will tell.”
Kris: What do you see as the biggest barrier to adoption at this stage?
Dennis: “Education and awareness. A lot of people we speak to like to focus on the negatives of electric motorcycles and that’s what they mostly see in the media – lack of sound, limited range and possible challenges with accessing charging infrastructure.
“But those things aren’t really high barriers when it comes down to it – while those who like a loud exhaust will stick with their ICE bike, most of our customers are welcoming the quiet hum of the motor and belt, enjoying a smooth ride with no engine vibration, heat or exhaust fumes (or waking up the neighbours early morning).
“And we know electric motorcycles aren’t touring bikes, but with over 200km of combined range on our C-Series Alpha, that’s a pretty decent weekend ride or a very easy work commute. Like you use your phone, just keep your bike topped up when you have access to a power point and the instant acceleration and ease of use really make it a lot of fun to ride.
“We don’t think that electric motorcycles will be the only option available in Australia, they will be a part of the motorcycling ecosystem. And we’re excited to show new riders the benefits of electric once we start test rides later this year. You really have to experience electric to understand it and we can’t wait to show Australia.”
Kris: Thanks for your time Dennis!
About Savic Motorcycles
Savic Motorcycles started as a three-man start up in Melbourne six years ago, launched in 2016 by Dennis Savic and receiving funding from state and federal governments to develop it’s C-Series electric motorcycle, since winning two Australian design awards.
Savic Motorcycles aims to be manufacturing 1,000 units a year by 2025 from their West Melbourne facility, and will expand to include lightweight urban two-wheel mobility vehicles.
Dennis Savic is an engineer by trade, and previously worked at Ford Australia as a weight attribute engineer on the Everest SUV, now leading a team of 35 staff, including lead designer Dave Hendroff.
The first customers will receive their Savic Motorcycles C-Series in Q2 of 2023, with almost 250 already pre-ordered.
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*Prices listed are Ride Away prices. Options are available at an additional cost. Ride Away price includes Registration, Duties and CTP insurance where applicable. Savic Motorcycles reserves the right to vary colours, specifications and pricing at any time. Pre-Order Build Slot Purchases are fully refundable.
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