Born smart in SEE, growing up rich globally

By Mariyana Yaneva, Managing Editor, Renewables Now

When you think of business innovations for a low-carbon economy, Southeast Europe (SEE) may not be the first thing that comes to mind but the region sure has some jewels to show to green business Croatia, for one, is home to electric sports car maker Rimac Automobili, which this summer attracted the attention (in the form of a 10% shareholding) of German sports car manufacturer Mate Rimac, the founder and CEO of Rimac, who started off his business in a garage in the town of Sveta Nedelja in 2009, acknowledged very early on that the company needs to focus on the global market. “We never thought locally, only globally. It was always clear that Croatia is not a market for our products,” Rimac told SeeNews in an interview. “Going international from day one was the only way to success.”

In 2013, Rimac pocketed his first $1 million from the sale of an electric supercar prototype. A year later the company raised a total of 10 million euro from three investors. In March 218, Rimac unveiled the latest version of his electric hypercar, the C Two, at the Geneva Motor Show. The two-seater now boasts around 2,000 hp and reaches a top speed of 412 kilometers per hour.

In July, the company’s autonomous driving team launched a fleet of research vehicles to accelerate the development of its autonomous driving system and C Two’s signature feature – the driving coach. The fleet consists of several types of vehicles for different applications and scenarios with higher performance. The research vehicles can be controlled by the company’s onboard AI system and will be used for data collection and testing of the Rimac algorithms. Each vehicle collects 6 TB of data for every hour of driving. All that data is used to develop our deep learning and AI models for perception, localisation, motion planning and driver monitoring.

Rimac’s main focus is now on high-voltage battery technology, electric powertrains and the development of digital interfaces between man and machine (HMI Development). The Zagreb-based company also develops and produces e-bikes under its subsidiary Greyp Bikes, which was founded in 2013. It currently employs around 400. In Romania, electricity and gas supply company Restart Energy is also thinking globally and plans to launch a blockchain-fuelled, peer-to-peer, fully decentralized energy transfer platform by the end of 2018.

In February, the company raised $30 million in a Token Generation Event (TGE) to finance its Restart Energy Democracy (RED) platform which uses block-chain protocol, energy tokenization, and smart contracts to connect renewable energy producers/prosumers to consumers anywhere in the world.

“The idea for the RED platform was born from my dream of creating a transparent energy ecosystem that allows and encourages free and direct energy transfers between people, who have the possibility of choosing renewable energy without limitations, from sources they can trust,” Armand Domuta, CEO of Restart Energy, told SeeNews in an interview. The RED ecosystem is comprised of the RED-Platform, RED-Franchise and RED-MWAT Tokens. The MegaWatt (MWAT) token is at the core of RED’s functionality. Each MWAT gives access to trade up to 1 MWh of energy per month on the RED Platform software. The tokenized energy traded on the RED Platform can be physically delivered at local rates in countries with deregulated energy markets where Restart Energy will be present directly or through franchisees.

Domuta set up Restart Energy as a private energy supply company in 2015. In just two years after its launch, the company has reached 37,000 clients in Romania. According to the CEO, Restart Energy will bring in $100 million in revenue in 2018 – a five-fold increase over last year. “We’re planning on entering over 40 countries in the next five years.” the CEO said.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, power supply systems manufacturer IPS has a different solution for the distributed energy generation market.

The company has developed a plug & play modular system called Exeron that enables off-grid electrification of single or multiple objects (mini-grid) in remote or rural areas. PV, wind and diesel generation sets can be used as input power sources and a battery can be used for energy storage. Starting from 2 kW per hot plug power module, the systems can reach 65 MW in 2 or 4 kW power steps.

Initially developed for military applications, the Exeron systems are currently operating in 58 countries. In 2017, IPS said it had struck a frame agreement with one of the largest oil & gas companies in the world for a significant number of Exeron units to provide autonomous power for the cathodic protection of oil pipelines in a completely isolated, off-grid locations. This year, a new IPS factory with an annual production capacity of about 120 million euro will be launched in Bulgaria. It will be the first 100% self-sufficient, zero-emission manufacturing facility of its kind in Europe.

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