In the paddock at the exciting electric Formula E race in Miami, I saw something intriguing among the BMW i3 and i8s that were serving as pace cars — the race director’s own ride, an ultra high-performance carbon fiber-bodied Rimac Concept One. The car is capable of zero to 62 mph times of 2.8 seconds, and packs 1,088 horsepower from motors at each wheel. Top speed is over 200 mph. And it’s from, um, Croatia.
The Concept One getting admired in the pits. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
Rimac isn’t an entirely new name — the car, priced at an eye-popping $980,000 (more than the plug-in hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder), was announced in 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show — but this is the first one I’ve actually seen. That’s not surprising, because the company has only made and sold eight of them in the first World Edition Series. A “select group of visionaries” was invited to become Rimac owners. The idea was to start serial production in 2013, with a goal of 88 cars offered, but that might take a while.
This electric supercar thing is getting crowded. The Tesla Model S is the benchmark, of course, and the ante was raised by the P85D model, with 3.2 seconds to 60. Tesla said in announcing it that the D is “the fastest accelerating production four-door car ever.” Videos confirm it can leave many conventional supercars in the dust, and people who’ve driven it tell me the neck-snapping performance is like nothing else. The Concept One may be faster, but it’s not a four-door production car, is it?
The fabulously expensive $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder is actually cheaper than the Rimac Concept One. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
Another one, of course, is the Renovo Coupe, modeled on the Cobra Daytona. That one’s also still in the show-and-tell stage, and Renovo isn’t making faster-than-anything-else claims; it says it’s building “the newest and most exciting all-American supercar.” With 500 horsepower and 1,000 foot pounds of torque from twin sequential axial flux motors, it’s said to reach 60 in less than 3.4 seconds. Most of its technology is made in-house.
Tesla gets lots of credit for actually getting its cars into volume production. It’s a tough challenge for tiny market supercars. Rimac, headed by brilliant gearhead Mate Rimac (who built a record-setting electric BMW when he was just 19), is forging ahead. The CEO is not modest. “I am building not just the best electric supercar, but the best supercar," he said. “A supercar for the 21st century.” The better Tesla? He clearly thinks so. Here's the car on video:
I dunno, $10 million isn’t a lot in the auto business. The company has expanded from 20 to 60 employees, so let’s hope the burn rate isn’t too excessive. The Concept One is undoubtedly very sophisticated, and part of its game plan seems to be selling components to other carmakers. Earlier this month, Rimac said it would supply the lightweight battery pack for the 1,500-horsepower plug-in hybrid Koenigsegg Regera.
It’s important to realize the big gap between building a few cars that impress the public and actually going to series production. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mate Rimac would like to "release a new model every two to three years and keep slashing the sticker price," but development like that costs a lot of money. The public’s fascinated with the $6,800, 84-mpg Elio, but the company still needs to raise a lot more money before the cars become a consumer reality. The most recent announcement is not the opening of the factory but the debut of its 0.9-liter, three-cylinder engine.
Rimac says the money raised is “dedicated to the development and commercialization of our future sports car models and an increase of our production capacity.” That sounds like a good idea. Here's the Concept One in the paddock: