How Mate Rimac went from a garage in Croatia to the world’s automotive stage

08th January 2020
Laura Thomson

Croatia isn’t exactly known for its booming automotive industry, and while pioneering mechanical and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla (after whom the car is named) was in fact born there, the country is far from a leader in electronics. This just makes the Rimac story all that more remarkable.


The company was the by-product of Mate Rimac’s own experiments on his BMW E30 after blowing its engine up in a race. Instead of sourcing a replacement unit, the then-18-year-old student set about building his own electric powertrain in his parents' garage in Samobor, Croatia, scouring parts for it online.

“It was an old rusty thing and on the second race the engine blew up so I used that car to build an electric car because I wanted to prove that electric cars could be faster than conventional fuel,” Mate told us at a recent launch event for a new Rimac business venture.

“It’s difficult to remember that 10 years ago, electric cars were totally different – they were considered something completely difficult,” he explained. “I remember it very well because everybody told me I was super insane to build an electric car. And insane to race an electric car against gas-powered cars – because I didn’t have any electric cars to race against – so I had to race against combustion-engined cars, so everybody was laughing at me for like ‘coming with a washing machine to a race track’.

“At the beginning it was not so fun, the car had problems and after every race I was improving it, so the car became faster and faster and I started winning and in 2011 I broke five FIA and Guinness World records in that car. Then I founded a car company with the aim to develop a car from scratch.”


Despite this impressive start, it wasn’t always plain sailing in a country with ‘the smallest automotive industry in Europe’, and so Rimac turned to producing components which were then sold to manufacturers around the world, a profitable business that allowed Mate to fund Rimac’s hypercar manufacturing.

Rimac Automobilia was founded in 2009 and nowadays, Mate says, he “works for basically everyone in the industry”, including battery production for the Aston Martin Valkryie, the Koenigsegg Regera, Jaguar E‑Type Zero and Seat Cupra e-Racer concept. A technical partnership with Pininfarina has spawned the Battista, which features a Rimac powertrain and reportedly also boasts the same platform as the upcoming C_Two.


The Concept One came two years later at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, the product of a then six-man-strong company. Powered by four liquid-cooled permanent magnet synchronous electric motors, it produced a huge 913 kW (1,224PS) and could accelerate from 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds. When the eight units were delivered in 2013, it was reportedly the world’s fastest accelerating electric vehicle. In 2017, the Concept One set a new EV speed record on the hillclimb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard.

Nine years after the Concept One made its motorshow debut, the C_Two will do the same, this time at Geneva in March. Rimac is now a 600-man company, with Mate retaining a 47.7 per cent share, while Porsche, Hyundai, Kia and Camel Group are also stakeholders.

The C_Two builds on the Concept One’s already blistering performance, boasting 1,408kW (1,914PS) and 2,300Nm (1,702lb ft) of torque, once again produced by four wheel-mounted motors. This incredible power should send the car to 62mph in 1.85 seconds, with a top speed of 258mph.

Active aerodynamics in the bonnet and splitter and top-end materials throughout make for a lightweight and streamlined car, while a full carbon-fibre monocoque, rear carbon subframe and aluminium/carbon crash structures combine to make the C_Two incredibly strong.

But most impressive of all is the technology throughout, which includes Level 4 autonomy, which implements eight on-board cameras, a pair of lidar, six radar emitters, twelve ultrasonic sensors, a GPS and an IMU sensor. All-wheel torque vectoring allows for the car to run in various configurations, from rear-biased and driftable to having excellent traction on slippery surfaces.


One of the unique ways all this tech can be used is to ‘coach’ the driver on racing lines, braking, acceleration and steering at various tracks. The driver can monitor every aspect of the C_Two’s performance via live telemetry animations or graphs, displayed on the beautifully-designed dash.

150 units will go into production in Q4 of this year, with delivery to UK buyers anticipated in 2021. With the C_Two to be built in limited numbers, I wondered if we could expect to see a smaller, more-affordable hypercar from Rimac?

“Hyundai and other companies will provide the higher-production, affordable cars using our tech,” Mate explained, remaining tight-lipped as to what and when we could expect to see such vehicles.

From humble beginnings to the present day, late last year Rimac announced a deal with the high-end H. R. Owen dealer group that will allow the £2million car to be sold and supported from H. R. Owen’s new £40million 'experience centre' in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. At the same time, the founder revealed his intentions to open a research and development centre on UK soil, the announcement made in a luxurious basement beneath Berkeley Square’s Jack Barclay. In front of us was one of the 20 prototype C_Twos, fresh from testing and still in a very rough form.


With two-dozen patents developed with the Concept One, how many had the C_Two project created, I wondered?

“My philosophy is to be very open – I wrote my first patents when I was 17 years old,” he replied.

“The patent system is totally broken – it just shows who has more money, and at the beginning we didn’t have money so figured I don’t want to patent stuff, I just want to be open. I mean its super hard to do this stuff so if somebody can copy it then be my guest, you deserve it.”

So, there you have it. Mate Rimac the philanthropist may be playing in the big leagues now, but he remains humble and dedicated to progression of hypercar innovation.

Festival of Speed 2017 image by Nick Dungan.

  • Rimac

  • C_Two

  • Concept One

  • Mate Rimac

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