Rimac, the Tesla of Europe. Well sort of.
So we had a request from one of our podcast listeners, Todd Cantley, an ex-pat Kiwi based all the way across the world in the Middle East, for us to do a deep dive on Rimac, the company that builds technology for petrolheads, by petroheads. As a lover of everything mental fast, this is a juicy one! Now I have to admit that as well as being a lover of cars, boats planes, well anything that moves fast, I’m also a big fan of technology innovation and the strategic thinking behind business models, so a little bit of that business geek will shine through in this blog - my apologies in advance!
So here in NZ and Australia there is a lot of political posturing and hand wringing when it comes to EV subsidisation. But in other parts of the world like Europe, they are taking the issue of climate change and air quality very very seriously. They have encouraged their agencies to invest in promising new small businesses that are doing something to address this. Initially Rimac was a recipient of funding from one such agency.
But that isn’t where the Rimac story starts so lets go back to the days of a crazy 19 year old Croation with a passion for drifting and racing his BMW E30. These old BMers are loved across the world, but they are revered in Europe where there are dedicated amateur and professional racing syndicates, as well as the US and here in NZ. After thrashing the pants off his BMer at one such race event in 2007 Mate Rimac blew the engine up. It was at this moment that Mate decided to convert it to all electric. Rimac Automobiles as a concept was born. The Green Monster, as his BMer came to be affectionately known, was the companies first prototype model and it went through 5 stages of development before it started setting some serious records. In 2011 it became the fastest accelerating EV in its class (Category A) hitting the 0-62 (100kms) in 3.3 seconds and has a top speed of 280km/h. Not bad for a car made in 1984.
For all you car lovers who also love power stats, the green monster puts down 442kW or 593hp and has 900NM of torque. Enough to get off the line and nail a quarter mile in 11.8 seconds. But that was not enough for Mate’. Having recieved a grant from a top European agency, with support from the Croation Government he rented a bigger site and started developing the Concept One, an all-electric hyper car.
So you may have heard the term supercar, but hypercar is a relatively new concept. Basically it is the most mental version a brand can manufacture that has insane performance statistics, generally costs more than $1m USD, and is so rare most people will never see one in the flesh. Much like Elon Musk, Mate started at this end of the spectrum, but he doesn’t have the same vision as Elon, even though he has often been quoted as the European version of Elon Musk. Elon started making a supercar, the Tesla Roadster, with the vision to mass produce low cost EVs - he wants to change the world with the electrification of transport. Mate ion the other hand just loves cars and speed - electric was the only way to go because it is much much faster. He’s now developing more hypercars and expanding his technology into hovercrafts and flying cars. Yep the Jetsons future is going to become a reality!
So Rimac was formed in 2009 after going through multiple build versions of the Green Monster and he hasn’t looked back. Mate is a speed lover and is determined to make faster and faster cars. Along with the grant money, he also had early stage angel investors and he sold patents to his technology to fund the development of his business and this is a model he has continued to follow. Mate himself states the company didn’t become real until 2011 when it moved from his garage to the facility they are currently in and he hired his first employee. He now houses more than 500 in the same facility after just 8 years in business.
So the Concept One was his first hypercar, and he originally intended to manufacture and sell 88 of these insane vehicles. With 1,287hp this car can go from standstill to 100km/h in 2.6 seconds - that’s in the same league as a Formula One car. The top speed is 388km/h and it has a range of 600km. Of course, just like a petrol car, if you drive at 388km/h you will not go 600km, that’s just common sense. But I’ll bet you all the money in the world that if you drive this thing you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face for weeks. And no-one buys a supercar or a hypercar for fuel efficiency reasons. Of course being all electric, you can slam the pedal into the floor with a more environmentally virtuous feeling inside. But with that much power it wouldn’t be advisable. Just ask Richard Hammond.
On The Grand Tour in 2017, Amazons Primes version of Top Gear with the same three idiot presenters (I love these guys BTW - totally worth the $5/month subscription) Richard drove the Rimac C1. Richard raced the C1 against two other supercars - a Lamborghini Aventador representing the Past and a Honda NSX representing the Present. And of course he destroyed them. Now I’m all about a fair fight and this wasn’t really one of them - both of the other cars were production versions and weren’t in the same price league, but man it makes for a cool video, and is actually part of a presentation I have given to many companies over the last couple of years. Truely amazing performance that has to be seen to be believed.
After the straight line race Richard took the car on a hill climb race against other competitors and was doing really well. After joking just before his third run that he would probably crash it, he did exactly that. On the last straight before a final corner he hit 145km/h on his first run. On his last run he hit 177km/h didn’t brake in time, went over the back of the hill, rolled 110 metres and the car burnt to the ground. Hammond climbed out of the car by himself and only suffered a fractured knee. If you see the accident it is an awesome advert for the safety of the Rimac car, something Mate himself was especially proud of. Unfortunately the car was a private owners car and Rimac weren’t making 88, instead they were only making 8, and they weren’t going to make a replacement, instead I think they just refunded the guy his $1m. Bummer.
So that was the C1, a 1287 hp hypercar, and there are only 8 of them (whoops sorry - 7) in the world. Not a bad start right. But that is not where the story ends. At the Geneva Motor Show in March last year (2018), Rimac unveiled the C2, and here is where things go really sideways. Where the C1 was 1287hp, the C2 is 1914hp. It can complete the race to 100km in 1.87 seconds. The reason Nico Rossberg, the world famous Formula One champion is seriously considering one is because he has never gone this fast before in a road legal car. Even his Formula One car only got to 100km/h in 2.6 seconds. Get your head around that!
As stated, Rimac is an electric vehicle technology manufacturer which builds technology for petrolheads, by petrolheads. OK so that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but hey it tells you what the heart of the company is all about - speed. And that is why the new C2 will have a drift mode, which allows you to hang the arse out at high speeds, but with enough technology to help prevent you stacking it into a wall. Of course humans being humans someone will still do that. I can’t imagine how painful it would be to stack a $2.1m USD car - perhaps one day I can have a chat to Richard about his experience.
Now that definition that Rimac is a technology company is very important. Sure Mate and his team have some amazing hypercars they have built, and they are building 150 C2s which I believe have all been presold (470m NZD), but from a commercial perspective these are the marketing face of the real business. You see the real business is all about battery technology, drivetrains and overall EV architecture. They produce the battery systems that go in the latest Koenigsegg (specifically for the Regera) the Jaguar E-type zero and the new Aston Martin Valkyrie. Pininfarina recently released their first vehicle, the Battista, which was heavily based on the C2 design and EV architecture. Some cried foul that it was too similar, but when you understand that Mates vision is technology not just hypercar development it all makes sense. In fact of the 5 latest hybrid hypercars under development, Rimac technology will be in 4 of them.
The battery applications are particularly fascinating. If you aren’t into battery technology then this bit will be a bit boring, but I’ll try and put it into English so hopefully even I can understand it. OK so EV batterys receive a C rating in regards to power, which is the amount of energy they can discharge based on 1kW available in the battery. A C1 battery contains 1kW and has 1kW available for that energy to propel the car forward. A Hyundai Kona Electric with a 64KWh battery pack has 150kW of power available, so that is a C rating of 2.34 I.e. for every kWh of energy in the battery you get 2.34kW of power. Standard EVs have C ratings that range from 1 to 3. Teslas are more like 5-6, but for Mates Rimac technology it is very very different. The C rating in the battery pack they provide to Koenigsegg for the Regera has a C rating of 115, that is for every 1kWh of power in the battery it delivers 115kW of power. If that was in my Kona I would get 7,680kW, or 10,299hp. There is a trade off in regards to density, so the battery packs going into the Koenigsegg are quite large for very little kWh storage, in fact the battery pack on a Koenigsegg is only 4.5kWh of storage, but it delivers 700hp or 521kW. Wow.
The real secret sauce when it comes to Rimac is the build it yourself beating heart of the company. They needed to have lights on the C1 but getting a car lighting manufacturer to build them is millions of dollars. So they did it themselves. They do almost everything in house, from design of the car, to ECU design, to infotainment hardware and UX design, to fabrication, to hardware and software engineering. So when they need to change something it can flow through the entire development chain very very fast in comparison to other companies.
And Rimac technology will also be a a number of other transport hardware. From cars to trucks, boats, and even planes. After 4 funding rounds they now have the following companies invested in their technology:
Camel, a global battery manufacturer owns a slice
Porsche owns 10%
Kia owns a slice
Hyundai owns a slice
It is just the beginning for Mate and his team of self confessed petrol heads. Some very very cool cars are going to be based on his work and they are going to be mental fast - bring it on!