Savic Motorcycles reveals a new workshop and a new electric prototype
Australia's Savic Motorcycles has revealed its latest prototype as it gears up to begin testing and series production of its first electric motorcycle, the Series C cafe racer. We caught up with founder Dennis Savic to check out how it's coming along.
Melbourne, Australia is not a particularly well-known city on the global stage, but it did earn itself some measure of distinction this year by more or less completely eradicating the city's second-wave spike of Covid-19 cases. At one point, the city was seeing more than 700 new cases a day, but as we write, there has not been a single case detected for 38 days and counting, thanks to marathon city-wide stay-at-home lockdowns, the last of which stretched through the antipodean winter for a bruising 111 days.
This was thus not a great year for getting things done; on the other hand, motorcycle sales anecdotally went through the roof, as people started seeing public transport as a virus incubator and looked for other ways to commute once lockdowns lifted. So perhaps there's a silver lining for companies like Savic Motorcycles, which moved into a new workshop just before the long lockdown started.
Mind you, there aren't a whole lot of companies like Savic; the Australian automotive sector is more or less dead and buried, at least from a manufacturing point of view. And electric vehicles are struggling for traction in a market that commutes like the rest of the world, but often has to cover big distances on weekends and holidays. Charging infrastructure has been slow to roll out, too, in a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. So new, Australian electric motorcycle companies are rare birds indeed.
We've been following Savic since its first Australian Motorcycle Expo debut in 2018, and reported on its generation 2 prototype in November last year. Now, the company has revealed its latest prototype, with testing set to begin in the new year and deliveries slated for late 2021. Order books for the first production round of 50 bikes are nearly full, and when I popped by to check out the new workshop in West Melbourne, the small but fiercely loyal Savic team was full steam ahead.
The look has changed a bit; all the bodywork has had a sleek seeing-to, with the most notable change being a nicely detailed bellypan with cooling vents in it and a new set of three-spoke rims. The vast majority of the bike is now designed in-house, founder Dennis Savic tells me. "Everything from the axles, to the nuts, to the rims, it's all our own design and in-house engineering. The fact that we've done all that on the budget we've had is pretty rare."
The new prototype shows off the fiberglass version of the tank and tail bodywork, which have been hand-formed aluminum in previous iterations. The metal bodywork will be an option for production, as will a lightweight carbon fiber version.
The heart of the bike is a custom-designed, integrated, L-shaped powertrain unit featuring a barrel-chested battery enclosure with cooling fins, and a tightly packaged motor very close to where the single-sided swingarm and belt drive pivot. There will be three specification levels: the Alpha, with 11 kWh of battery for a 200-km (124-mile) range and 60 kW (80 hp) of power, the Delta, with 9 kWh, a 150-km (93-mile) range and 40 kW (54 hp), and the commute-focused Omega with a modest 7 kWh, 120 km (75 miles) of range and just 25 kW (33 hp). All are priced to compete, with the Omega coming in at a surprising AU$12,990 (US$9,600).
"The prototype will have 60 kW and 190 Nm of torque at the motor," Savic tells me. "It's all direct drive to the rear wheel. We've designed the pulleys ourselves, and we're running a 36mm belt, which is the widest belt, I think, in the EV market. I believe Zero is running 21mm belts, and they've been having snapping issues, so we decided to go up. We'll be adding a lower belt guard as well for production, just to protect it from any rocks. The pulley is our own design, and the spokes on it will line up with the spokes on the wheel, which is ours as well. I just really like those kind of features. It's billet machined aluminum, anodized black. And we like the red belt color, it looks cool. And it's 100 percent faster. More torque if it's red!"
The battery packs are currently using 18650 laptop-style lithium-ion cells, but the team is looking to expand capacity by moving to 21700-spec cells. The prototype is currently hollow, but the team is expecting an operational motor and the new battery pack from its suppliers in January. A new and neat design touch is the lion's head Savic badge on the right side of the battery pack, which will pop out to reveal the bike's charge plug.
The prototype bike – and the four founder's edition bikes – will have high-spec, fully adjustable Wilburs forks. "The rear shock on the prototype here is a YSS rear shock," says Savic. "They're a Thailand-based aftermarket company, and they sponsor at least one Australian Superbike race team – Jet Metcher Racing. He's our test rider, so he introduced us to YSS. We'll be tuning the bike with that, and if all goes well, we'll probably go through with them to production. Wilburs forks will be an aftermarket option for all customers, and standard on the first four founders' editions."
The bike will use Brembo M4 monoblock calipers, although there's no brakes on this prototype, since Brembo hasn't been able to supply them as yet. And it'll have a license plate holder wrapping around the rear wheel from a tubular mount off the swingarm.
Savic still doesn't consider the bike finished, and he's refreshingly honest about the bits he's still not happy with. "There's a lot of stuff we still need to fix up," he says. We're going to try to modify the tank shape a little bit. There's a chance it'll stay the same, and we're happy with it if it does, so it's not a massive problem. We want to do better with the upholstery, fill in some gaps at the back of the seat. The lower fairing was an absolute pain in the ass to assemble, and we're tweaking it very slightly to make our lives a bit easier in production."
"Overall," he continues, "the thing we need to improve on most is our quality control. These swingarms came from India and so did the subframe, and we could only use two out of the five they sent, because we didn't have the quality control in place with the supplier to say "if it doesn't fit this, you cannot send it." We've got a lot to improve on there, and we are improving on it. We have a man on the ground there now. The swingarms, the rims, the powertrain enclosure are all moving to a cast design to improve the performance and minimize the number of welds on the bike, which is really important from a durability perspective. So we're starting to tool up for that."
Savic can feel the clock ticking after pandemic-induced delays have made things tough both for his local team and for his international supply chain. "By the end of next year," he says, "we want to have our first bikes delivered. It depends on so many factors though. Is our ADR compliance going to happen on time? Is our ABS supplier going to complete testing on time? That's what we're aiming for, and we think we can manage it, and my promise to customers is that I'll keep them as updated as I can through the process. The founder's edition orders were placed in 2018, when we unveiled the first bike. I've offered them refunds several times, and they've all been like "no, no, you're alright, just keep going! We know what you're doing is hard!" And they'll get some great value for money I think!"
Savic is still young, at 28, and he and his team are all-in on this project. "When we finished our first round of fundraising, and it was time for us to go full-time," he muses, "I basically messaged (software engineer) Kim Suandee and (mechanical engineer) Adrian Vinovrski, and all of us put our resignations in on the same day. I don't know, it was just a bit poetic. We're learning as we're going, but it's definitely humble beginnings!"
Source: Savic Motorcycles