I’m sure most, if not all readers of this blog have a few automotive legends of their own. Henry Ford is no doubt part of most people’s list as the man who gave us the first mass-produced automobile. I would of course also cite some of my Italian car legends that you’ve seen featured on this blog, and no doubt include Christian von Koenigsegg as well, the Swede who built the world’s fastest car from scratch on the countryside in Sweden. These days however, at least for the general public, Elon Musk is probably the biggest of them all. You can debate how much of a car company Tesla is (or for that matter how sane Elon is), but you can’t debate the success Tesla cars have had (and as shown last week, this goes for the resale values as well!).
What’s fascinating with Elon next to the fact that in addition to cars, he also builds rockets that he lands back on earth after the flight, is that just like Koenigsegg, he started from a piece of paper (albeit with lots of money in his pocket). He did so in the biggest car market in the world, but of course he himself is South-African. Let’s just say that the odds of success weren’t necessarily on his side, and they were even less so for Koenigsegg, as also highlighted in my piece last year. So in that case, how would you rate the odds of a 20-year old Bosnian setting out to build the fastest EV supercar in the world in neighboring Croatia? Yeah, right. You’d be wrong though, because his name is Mate Rimac and he’s quickly developing to becoming something like the next Elon. This week, we’ll look closer at him and the car brand carrying his name!
Mate Rimac is only 34 years old, but he’s already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. Having grown up in Germany and Croatia, he participated in various innovation contests at a young age and in 2006, after having exploded the engine of his BMW E30, decided to transform it to an electrical car. So he did and not only that, he made it the fastest EV in the world at the time, which got him quite a lot of press coverage that would turn out to be very useful a few years later. Mate also competed with the car against traditional combustion engines and usually won, and it was sometime around here that he became convinced of the potential of EV’s and decided to set up a company and build better cars than Tesla. At the same time he invented a few other things as well, such as a rear-view mirror without blind spot and the iGlove, aimed at replacing the computer mouse and keyboard. It didn’t, but there’s little doubt Mate had lots of ideas in his head and by the looks of it, still does.
At first, Rimac’s company focused on conversion of traditional cars to electric drivetrains. That business developed nicely and became known as Rimac Automobili in 2009, when Mate was 21. It took him another two years to get a few employees at the company’s HQ in Croatia, and at this time he also met a GM designer called Adriano Mudri. The two men got along and started discussing building an EV supercar together. Thanks to the previous garnered publicity, they also got an invitation to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates who would become the financier of Rimac’s first prototype called Concept One, unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2011. Eight Concept Ones were built in total and as far as I know seven are still around, the eighth having been crashed in quite spectacular fashion by Richard Hammond of (the original) Top Gear. That’s without doubt the most expensive car Hammond has ever crashed…
Next to the car however, Rimac continued to work with other brands on modifications and parts related to electrification. These include Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW and Koenigsegg, and in 2018 VW/Porsche also bought a 10% stake in Rimac. Last year, it was then confirmed that the partnership has been extended to a new company called Bugatti Rimac where Rimac owns 55% and will provide electrification to the coming hybrid Bugattis. Porsche is also said to have invested further in the company in its latest financing round. As if that wasn’t enough, Rimac also produces the battery systems for the Aston Martin Valkyrie and the Koenigsegg Regera.
With a top speed of 220 mph (roughly 350 km/h) the Concept One was no doubt extreme, even for an EV, especially 10 years ago. This was however only the hors d’oeuvre for what was to come. The even faster Concept S would follow in 2016 as more of a track car, before the Nevera was unveiled in 2018 and is being delivered to customers form this year. With 150 cars being built for a price of EUR 2m these customers are to be considered very lucky, as this 1914 hp monster sets a new standard even for EV’s. With a top speed of over 400 km/h and a 0-100 time of 1.85 seconds, it also reaches 300 km/h in nine seconds, faster than an F1 car and something that will most probably have you searching for your eye balls at the back of your head, should you try it.
Of course speed isn’t enough though, and the Nevera (which by the way is the name of a Mediterranean storm – what is it with auto makers and winds??) certainly looks the part. It’s a beautiful car with hints of the new Corvette at the front and a McLaren of your choice in the back. Air vents along the sides have the same shape as the necktie of Croatian soldiers fighting for Napoleon (you’d be forgiven for not noticing that yourself…). Of course almost every panel is carbon fibre, it uses butterfly doors and a break spoiler in the back, deploying at a predetermined speed. Rimac confesses he’s programmed that speed to be low enough for the spoiler to deploy frequently, as clients find it cool….
The Nevera has four electrical engines, one per wheel, which are thus operated and adjusted individually, further contributing to great handling. The interior is more plush than you would expect and definitely more of a GT car than a track car. That doesn’t mean it drives badly though: the first of the 150 Neveras will be delivered to ex-F1 world champion Nico Rosberg who is enthusiastic about not only the power but also how the car handles. In terms of colors you can of course have whatever you want – Mate himself has chosen raw carbon fibre for his own Nevera, a bit of a debatable choice but who are we to argue…
We’ll see where Rimac goes from here, but both the cars and the prestigious collaborations have put him on a fast track for even greater things going forward. From interviews and videos he also seems like a genuinely good guy, which is always nice to see. Notably all Rimac employees, from the cleaning stuff and up, have a share in the company. Of course, unless I have more prominent readers than I know, neither you nor I will probably have the pleasure of driving a Nevera or see for ourselves how nice Mate Rimac is. There is however another way to experience the Rimac magic, namely by buying an electrical MTB from his other company Greyp Bikes, founded in 2015. That will save you a couple of million, be better for your health and give you the first MTB that can communicate with all other Greyp MTB’s around the world, and also film what happens behind you when you ride. If that’s not an irresistible offer, I don’t know what is!