It is midday when we arrive at Rimac Automobili. It’s not the usual setting you’d expect when you visit a car manufacturing plant. We are in Croatia, just outside of Zagreb. If you are into cars, you know that in Croatia you won’t find much of a car industry, nor will you find a 100-man workforce here, but rather a small team of 20+ engineers who are sitting around a table enjoying their lunch together.
It is here that the world’s fastest electric supercar was designed and built. CEO, Mate Rimac, has meanwhile shipped the first car. During a tour, he talked to us about bootstrapping his company, how they built and shipped a one-off electric supercar from scratch within 4 months and why he hates car keys. We test-drive the prototype of an electric superbicycle that was originally ordered by a prince from Abu Dhabi… and we burn some rubber.
Impressive is an understatement when you see what Mate has built here. But you don’t build a 1088 horsepower electric supercar overnight. Especially not if you start from scratch with a blank sheet of paper.
1. Building the World’s Fastest Electric Supercar on a Budget
Mate is not running this shop on a major budget, but clearly has enormous passion for what he does. "We designed the Concept One from scratch," he proudly tells us, "but it’s not street-legal. You need to do crash-tests before you can go into production." This is certainly not your ordinary software startup where your prototyping costs are near zero. And that is precisely the point: Investors find upstarts like Rimac too long-term, too risky; they would need to throw in too much capital. In Europe this is an impossible mission. "I had a couple of offers. One from Abu Dhabi, but they wanted to bring all production over there. I’m not in it for the money – I don’t want to live in the desert."
2. Prototyping and Getting Street Cred
As we approach the production area, Mate says "Our advantage is: We are flexible and we are fast!" Everything Rimac produces, all the parts needed are made in-house. "Every new car is better than the one before, we try to do something new with every single one." That’s where their modified BMW test mule comes into play. The first car they shipped was a one-off prototype ordered by a company Mate isn’t officially allowed to mention, but "it has Rimac roots and Google will gladly help you out." The fun part: Mate and his team of engineers had to design, produce and ship the car within 4 months."Some of the guys didn’t leave the factory for 4 days. It was suicide, but we made it!"
That’s how you build yourself a brand. (Also, a few world records help too.)
3. Making the Technology of a Million Dollar Supercar Available
"We wanted to take the technology of the Concept One supercar and make it available to more people," Mate says. The result: Greyp-Bikes. "We took the electronics that are embedded in the Concept One and voila! It ended up being a bit faster than initially planned," Mate jokes. In Europe anything that goes in excess of 25 km/h needs to be officially licensed. Mate and his engineers solved this by creating 3 modes for the bike, depending on which finger you place onto the screen. Afterwards, Mate tells us "I hate keys! I can hardly wait until a chip implanted under your skin takes care of everything."
- Street Mode: Use your thumb and your bike will be locked at 25 km/h
- Eco Mode: Need to extend the range? Use your index finger
- Power Mode: Don’t give a crap? Use your middle finger and you won’t know what hit you
We tested that baby and trust me it’s insane. "Maybe just start by pedaling!" Mate shouted – the rest I didn’t hear.
4. You Don’t Do It for the Money, It’s Your Passion
You do it because it’s damn hard work and damn fun! "It’s a roller-coaster," Mate says "Our books are full, we got orders to build 2 new prototypes from scratch and another Concept One by the end of the year. Plus we are doing the bikes. I’m off to Kiel in a minute – they want to see the Concept One." As busy as Mate’s days are, he knows how to switch-off and quickly adds: "Let’s go drive the car."
The modified 3-series is so much fun and has got to be one of the most impressive electric cars out there. "The power is always there, it doesn’t make a difference how fast you are going or which gear you are in," Mate explains before burning through another set of tires. It’s pure torque.
5. Magnum Opus
You have a vision for the world and you help shape it. It is perfectly clear that Mate envisions electronic drivetrains to be the future. "There is no doubt," Mate says, "but at the same you yourself will not be driving your car anymore." He is clearly referring to driverless cars. "And it is not just a safety issue, I hate driving long distances. Luckily, I’m in the business and can help influence which direction we go!"