What’s the fastest accelerating EV in the world? The Spark Formula E racer? The Drayson B12? Nope – according to Guinness, it’s a converted BMW built by Croatian engineer Mate Rimac. If you feel the need to get to 60 mph in under three seconds, you can actually buy Rimac’s latest model, the Concept One, for a mere million bucks. The 25-year-old entrepreneur’s Zagreb-based startup, Rimac Automobili, was profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
The Concept One sports four individual motors, and has 1,000 hp of total power, a maximum speed of 190 mph and a range of 150 miles. “It’s not just something that looks pretty at an auto show,” says Rimac. “We can build it today. We just need scale.”
Rimac converted his 1984 E30 BMW when he was 19, and now uses it as a test mule. Back in its gas-powered days, Rimac drove it in drifting competitions until the engine blew up. Inspired by the great Nikola Tesla, Rimac decided to try an electric motor. “It wasn’t about making the car environmentally friendly,” he says. “The performance is just much better.”
Rimac converted the E-series using off-the-shelf components, and kept improving it until it was conquering all comers at the race track. When a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family asked to buy two cars, he set to work on the Concept One, and Rimac Automobili was born. Today the company has 22 employees, mostly engineers.
“It was a learning curve – we made mistakes,” Rimac says. “But eventually I realized we were doing something right: developing cars for a lot less money than big car manufacturers and managing to beat them in many fields. We have an advantage starting with a blank sheet of paper. There’s no heritage that we have to incorporate into the design.”
Rimac builds most of the components of the Concept One in-house (the batteries and air bags are two exceptions). The company uses milling machines to cut the wheels and pedals out of solid aluminum blocks. “Only Formula One cars or spaceships are made this way,” says Rimac.
As do many small automotive companies, Rimac Automobili earns most of its revenue designing and producing components such as electric powertrains and battery management systems for other automakers. “We can design and build prototypes fast and inexpensively, and not just for electric cars. We make chassis, electric parts, molds – all under one roof. But if BMW wants to develop a supercar with an electric powertrain, the best one on the market is from us,” Rimac says. “Our technology could end up in a high-volume product under a different brand. If we had sufficient funding, we probably wouldn’t do this kind of stuff. It’s a simple matter of survival. Enzo Ferrari started to make road cars just to finance his race cars – he did it to pay the bills.”
Source: Wall Street Journal