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The Petrolhead Corner

The Electrifying Story of Rimac Automobili

If Porsche and Bugatti are investing, Rimac must have something very exciting under its bonnet.

| By Monochrome | 6 min read |

I have to admit, I don’t particularly know anything about Croatia. I’m reminded every now and then that some great athletes are born and raised there, a country with breathtaking, picturesque landscapes that I need to have a peek at before I die. But other than that, I don’t really think much about them. Sorry, Croatia. That is… Until the thought of Rimac comes to mind. When that does happen, however, the surge of emotions is absolutely electrifying.

Now, most of us have heard of Rimac in one of two ways. First, we’ve come to recognise it as an upstart company making electric hypercars cool before anyone else. Aside from this, we probably know Rimac from that one episode of The Grand Tour where – not wishing to spoil too much – a Rimac spun off a hill-climb course and caught fire. That was quite a scary episode, and it has left a somewhat murky image of Rimac in my head. 

So, let’s take a refresher and remind ourselves what Rimac is and why we should be interested. For a very long time, Croatia never had an automotive industry to start with. There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to this specifically, but the majority of the thread is essentially a summary of busses, lorries, tanks, and the occasional weird concept. So, nothing interesting really. There’s certainly not a lot to give the impression that it can build groundbreaking cars.

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But the mad folks over at Rimac did exactly that. And they built their reputation after years of having fun, tinkering, and that “why not?” spirit of experimentation. Founded by Mate Rimac, the namesake brand got its start, perhaps quite fittingly, in a garage. But Rimac very quickly garnered international fame as Mr Rimac converted his old 1986 BMW E30 into an electric car back when Tesla was still a youngling after he blew his 3er’s engine. 

That spirit of Rimac was born from seeing what the brand can do with electrification, and just how far it can be pushed. Soon enough, that old ‘e-M3‘ – which later came to be known as the “Green Monster” – became the fastest electric car in the world at the time. It had just under 600hp, with 664lb-ft of torque, and could muster a sprint to 60mph in just 3.3 seconds. That’s supercar territory, accomplished by an old Bimmer with some batteries and motors. 

As that E30 got better and better with every tune, Rimac & Co. probably sat there and thought: “You know what, we can do better.” So, they did. The same year the e-M3 won speed records left, right, and centre, Rimac showed off the Concept One in 2011. This was the first fully home-grown Rimac-built car, and boy was it a shocker! They learned a lot from the Green Monster and created what we’ve come to consider one of the first electric hypercars.

A watershed moment, therefore, as the Concept One’s motors altogether could output very nearly 1,300hp, which could power Croatia’s (automotive) finest to a top speed of 221mph. These are the sort of numbers that only the old guard at Bugatti or Koenigsegg could play around with… Just as a couple of noteworthy examples. We really do mean “Rimac-built”, as much of the core components are made in-house, simply because there’s nothing out on the market that was good enough.

Rimac’s Concept One proved that electric cars aren’t just fast, blunt instruments that are only good for dragstrips. No, it was drop-dead gorgeous, stupidly quick in any direction, and its all-wheel torque vectoring system made it actually fun to drive. Didn’t think “fun” was possible with electric cars, eh? And just when you thought the insane Croats are done, Rimac goes ahead and launches the C_Two: an evolution of the Concept One. 

You can see a lot of that in the design, with refined touches made to smoothen out the look of the Two, add a bit of drama with butterfly doors (as you do with super-sporty cars), and a lot of flaps, vents, and wings to make up the active aero. There are 120 kWh worth of dense batteries nestled between the carbon-fibre monocoque, placed down as low as possible to put the centre of gravity close to the tarmac, while four big motors sit on each wheel.

If there’s one thing the C_Two doesn’t lack, it’s speed. The C_Two has more than 1,900hp on tap so that you could leap from standstill to 60mph in 1.85-seconds and to a proclaimed top speed of 258mph. This would make Rimac’s second child the fastest accelerating completely road-legal car ever made, with the highest top speed of any EV. Try beating that at the next set of lights! Though just in case you’re feeling a bit lazy, there’s also Level-4 autonomy… If you trust the computers enough to pilot you around. 

But if you’re one to drive, the C_Two is – just like its elder brother – a technological tour de force, and it’s a fresh take of how EVs can (mis)behave when you turn up the wick. We’ve come to accept electric cars as quiet and gentle. If you’re more old-fashioned like yours truly, then we might consider them to be just that bit dull, or even completely comatose. Rimac does at least pave the way forward in that, yes, you can smile smugly in a car driven by motors. 

Granted, there isn’t as much sound to tickle your eardrums with, but what’s next for Rimac? Well, they’ve caught the attention of a lot of other carmakers, from building KERS hybrid systems for the Aston Martin Valkyrie – my favourite supercar – to engineering the batteries for Koenigsegg’s equally techy and nerdy Regera. Then there’s Pininfarina, the famed design house that penned and built the Battista, an Italianised cousin of the C_Two.

Perhaps most excitingly is Rimac’s tie-up with “ze Germans” at VW. It must’ve raised a few eyebrows when Porsche told us that they now owned nearly a quarter of Rimac. Two die-hard performance brands working together sounds like a treat and a half, but surely three is even better, no? It looks like Bugatti is entering the fray. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see a three-way collab for a new super-hyper-uber-mega electric grand tourer. You can’t talk me out of this one. 

This article was written by Zack Norman.

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