The European Commission gave its approval on May 25 to Croatia's state aid of €179.5mn for the development of a robo-taxi project led by Croatian electric supercar producer Rimac Automobili.
The funding will be instrumental in establishing an innovative urban mobility service based on fully autonomous electric vehicles.
Part of the funding will come from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), following the European Commission's positive assessment of Croatia's Recovery and Resilience Plan and its approval by the Council.
“The measure is part of a wider urban mobility project in Zagreb, which will enable users to combine multiple transport modes via a single integrated mobility service platform,” the Commission said in the press release.
If successful, this urban mobility model could be expanded to other EU cities.
The state aid will be granted to the project as a direct financial grant, covering about 45% of the eligible costs. Should the project surpass expectations and generate significant additional revenue, a claw-back mechanism will be triggered. This will require the beneficiary to return a proportion of the aid received to Croatia, ensuring fairness and balance.
KIA Motors, a company that is a part of the Hyundai Motor Group, is already directly involved in the project, as an investor and shareholder of the company Project 3 Mobility, which is Rimac Automobili’s sister company in charge of the project.
Marko Pejkovic, CEO of Project 3 Mobility, said the approval process was “extremely long and demanding”.
“We are proud that we successfully fulfilled all the criteria and demonstrated the value of our project to Croatian and EU institutions. During the past two years, it was necessary to demonstrate the alignment of our project with the European green and digital transition goals, in addition to providing added value in a number of societal aspects, all to justify the EU's financial support for its development,” he added.
The initial investment in the project, before it reaches commercial phase, is estimated at €450mn, which will come from foreign investors, such as KIA Motors. Rimac Automobili said it is in negotiations with other investors from the Middle East and Europe too.
Rimac hopes that the Croatian capital will become the world’s first city to have access to the driverless robo-taxi service. The company said that it has been developing the project for several years and is expected to reach commercial phase by the end of 2024.