Quimera behind global EV innovation

August 1, 2012

Quimera behind global EV innovation

The Quimera All Electric Gran Turismo (AEGT), the first All Electric GT prototype, was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. Another race car by Quimera, the All Electric Drift Car (AEDC), was recently demonstrated in the UK at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. So how did this little known Spanish start-up create some of the world's most powerful electric vehicles (EVs)?

Quimera, based in Barcelona, Spain, is neither a big carmaker nor a battery maker. This SME has received investment of 4 million from Spanish family offices and managers, and employs just 14 people in Spain and another four in China. Quimera was established with the aim of focusing on bringing to life projects, financing and management of intellectual property in the fields of sustainable urbanism and mobility: one result is the AEGT or the AEDC. So what is the secret of its success?

There are a lot of surprising things about Quimera. For one, it's a profitable company. Also, it's very open about the technologies inside the cars, which are going to be made available on the market via joint ventures for the use of other EV manufacturers.

Quimera has created an international cluster which aims to change the way electric cars are perceived by the car industry and raise public awareness regarding the capacities, performance and range of EVs.

"We are creating a different business model, which is very similar to the oldest business model in the world: bartering," says Javier de Rocafort, chairman of the board. He explains that: "Behind the Quimera concept lies a way to collaborate and create value without huge investments. We are trying to mobilise as much innovation as possible using as little money as possible by working alongside our partners, aligning ourselves with their strategy."

Quimera leads a Barcelona-based cluster of companies focused on sustainable transport for cities. The company has a partnership with French multinational engineering consultancy, Altran, which earlier this year established its new centre of excellence for EV development in the Spanish city in a joint venture with Quimera.

Quimera collaborated closely with Altran to develop, among others, the AEGT, which achieves top speeds of 300 km/h from three electric motors (supplied by UQM Technologies) which develop 700 bhp. Altran was the main technology advisor to Quimera on the development of the AEGT, taking responsibility for the design and engineering of the electrical powertrain, defining the battery pack (lithium-polymer EIG batteries), battery management system, electrical engines, gearbox and the complete powertrain integration. The AEGT also received support from Technopark Motorland, an initiative of the Government of the Spanish region of Aragon.

The AEGT is being demonstrated at selected American Le Mans Series events this year ahead of the anticipated launch of a new international Electric Vehicle Series in 2013. The planned EV Series is a joint venture between Quimera, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron (ALMS). In addition to the GT category, a drifting category is also confirmed, in partnership with US-based Formula Drift. Quimera developed the AEDC, which can achieve 1-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, in partnership with the UK's Alex Letteriello (developer of the K1 Evelio electric Supercar). The TTXGP World Championship (also closely linked to Quimera) will expand its format to include additional classes and new race formats as part of the global EV Series.

Outside of motorsports, Quimera focuses on sustainable projects in urban environments and mobility and has joint venture agreements with organisations ranging from delivery company DHL to the City of London.

"As of now, we are not interested in generating EBITDA and making huge sums of money," says de Rocafort. "Our plan is to develop projects with partners and then generate joint ventures with them to bring ideas to the market. We want to be in the management but we don't want to rule the new companies we create."

Quimera currently manages twelve projects, each with a global budget of 12 million euros, according to de Rocafort. As well as the AEGT or the AEDC cars, these include electric motorcycles for the City of London Police and the Barcelona Police Department, electric commercial vans for retail business and urban wind turbines.

"We can get ahead in these projects because we add the brains, the know-how and the management. We build the prototype cars, motorbikes and vans with our partners and establish a bespoke investment share per project. The key is to be able to arrange win-win proposals with highly valuable partners around the globe," explains the chairman.

"So we are a company with extremely low capital requirements. The organisation needs only a very small structure in terms of employees. And it needs to occupy just a small amount of space, because Quimera is basically an intellectual property company," says de Rocafort.

This model is attracting investors and Quimera is in the middle of a capital increase. Its target is to raise around 2 millon and the company is in discussions with 16 investor groups, mainly in the US, UK and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Quimera has a global vision - it has plans for expansion in the UK, India, US, Italy and Brazil, and is already established in China.

De Rocafort is clear about the kind of partners he is looking for.

"I don't like to talk about investors because we need entrepreneurs. We look for entrepreneurs with a business view similar to our own. Quimera is about creating value, long term thinking and strategy, so we prefer to work with partners who share these values and understand what we do and how," he says.

Quimera is ambitious. "Our budget this year is for profits of about 400,000 euros, but I believe that we will make a million soon. Then, our plan is to go public," affirms de Rocafort. The company is considering a listing on the London Stock Exchange AIM market, a growth market with some 3,000 developing businesses - or the Toronto Stock Exchange, well known as a destination for oil and mining groups, but also strong in high-tech.

It's an inspiring start for a small company that was established in June 2009 and began operating in April 2010. The chairman spends his time travelling and meeting experts and professionals from sustainability businesses around the world, to learn about developments in the industry and arrange alliances.

"The reason we created Quimera was because we witnessed a lot of green companies and projects failing after just a few years. Sustainability can be a very expensive business. Some of these companies were set up to commercialise just one particular technology but then were unable to reach the market. They couldn't find the investment needed to develop their technology into a marketable product," says de Rocafort.

Interestingly, de Rocafort is not particularly committed to the EV business. "I'm not sure EVs are the future of mobility, even though we are building EVs. At least, not the way EVs are currently being manufactured, with batteries and electric engines. But the most exciting thing is that we have no idea where the automotive industry is going. My feeling is that this is not just about new forms of mobility but the empirical evidence that the world is changing dramatically, not just the way it moves but also the way business is done," he comments.

"Big carmakers are investing a lot of money in their EV strategy and taking a huge risk. Quimera can explore the technology and new innovations but, since we are not interested in selling millions of cars, we can do it comfortably, without pressure. We are learning about this new way of mobility and we are doing so with a small budget."

Source: Cleantech magazine Volume 6 Issue 4
By Guillermo Escribano