Mid-Wales based Riversimple has unveiled of the “Rasa”, a road-legal engineering prototype of its first two-seater hydrogen powered road car, built for full European type approval.
Supported by a £2m grant from the Welsh government in 2015, every aspect of the Rasa has been tailor-made and interrogated for lightness, strength, affordability and safety, to produce a vehicle that will maximise hydrogen as a fuel source and minimise pollution.
Riversimple will offer the car to motorists through its unique “sale of service” model. For a fixed monthly fee and mileage allowance, similar in expenditure to leasing and running a new family-sized hatchback, the company will cover all repair, maintenance, insurance and fuel expenses. Customers will never actually buy the car and experience the burden of depreciation; they will simply exchange or return it at the end of the ownership period.
Led by Riversimple’s Founder, Hugo Spowers, the Rasa has been engineered by a highly-skilled team from some of the world’s most renowned carmakers, Formula 1 teams and aerospace engineering companies. Its elegant and clean lines have been styled by Chris Reitz, one of Europe’s leading car designers. With a total kerb weight of just 580kg (nearly half of a small car), it features a carbon composite chassis and only 18 moving parts in the entire powertrain. Furthermore, Riversimple will adopt an open-source approach to its technology and componentry to encourage the proliferation of its technology and economies of scale within the sector.
When the vehicle is in motion, hydrogen passes through the small 8.5kW fuel cell (the size currently used in forklift trucks, equivalent to 11hp), and combines with oxygen to form water and electricity to drive the motors in each of the four wheels. Over 50% of the kinetic energy produced under braking is recovered and turned into electricity to boost acceleration via a bank of super-capacitors.
The result is a range of up to 300 miles on 1.5kg of hydrogen, estimated fuel economy equivalent to 250mpg, and a top speed of 60mph. At around 40g CO2/km, the Riversimple car has the lowest carbon emissions for any vehicle ‘well-to-wheel’, and water is the only output.
Starting later this year, following funding to match a €2m EU grant, Riversimple will be conducting a public 12-month Beta trial of 20 Rasa prototype cars as part of the continued development of the first full production model which will come to market in 2018. It will be offered to individuals in a strategically planned phased roll-out by region in order to support a low risk, commercially practical introduction of profitable hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.
Hugo Spowers, Founder of Riversimple Movement Ltd, said: “The Rasa engineering prototype marks another key milestone in bringing an affordable and highly-efficient hydrogen-powered car to market. We really have started from a clean sheet of paper.
“Rasa gives us the opportunity to introduce customers to a more convenient concept of motoring, a lightness of ownership that neither places a burden on the pockets of motorists or the surrounding environment. The car is simple, light and fun in every respect.”
The company behind Rasa
Headquartered in Llandrindod Wells in Wales, Riversimple was founded in 2001 (under the previous name of OScar Automotive) by the Oxford and Cranfield University graduate, and automotive engineer, Hugo Spowers, with the primary purpose of “pursuing, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport.”
Collaborating with the Morgan Motor Company on their first hydrogen fuel cell car (“the LIFECar”) in 2008, Riversimple’s small “Hyrban” technology demonstrator was launched the following year.
The arrival of the company’s Rasa engineering prototype in 2016, sees Riversimple take a hydrogen-powered commuter car from the laboratory to the road in only 8 years.
It has also become the world’s first private producer of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and the first to adopt a circular service-based ownership model, which rewards longevity, efficiency and recovery of value at end of life, with no actual product for sale.
Discussions are continuing over where the car will be finally assembled.