Riversimple, based in Llandrindod Wells, a Welsh town of 5,000 people, is venturing into uncharted territory. Crowdfunding a new fuel cell car is not the only thing that sets the company apart from its competitors. The small creative powerhouse will also take another route in distribution.
Riversimple’s first crowdfunding campaign, which ended last April, netted the 23-staff business over EUR 1.28 million, money it used to develop its Rasa car. The vehicle will now have butterfly doors and a chassis made from biocarbon, with layers of flax woven into it. Power for the Rasa’s four small in-wheel electric motors will come from Hydrogenics PEM fuel cell stacks, type HyPM HD 8-200, as well as supercapacitors. The stacks’ 8.6 kilowatts are enough to take the two-seater, which weighs as little as 580 kilograms, to its top speed of around 97 kilometers, or 60 miles, per hour in a total of 10 seconds.
Riversimple’s founder, Hugo Spowers, put a great deal of effort into maximizing the impact of regenerative braking. Currently, the brakes recapture more than 50 percent of the car’s kinetic energy, with the target being 70. It makes the Rasa comparatively efficient and allows for an acceptable range, though the vehicle has been designed primarily for trips around town. Prospective customers, however, are not supposed to worry about possible issues such as refueling, insurance, maintenance and price. Riversimple said that it would be taking care of all those things and make the car available for rent only.
Spowers, who used to design and build race cars, told the Welt newspaper that the big automakers might think it is business as usual, but that they were wrong. “You can’t market a hydrogen car in the same way you would a conventional one,” he said. Instead, he intends to create a completely sustainable vehicle. It will be one that is used frequently throughout its average 15-year life, to recover the comparatively high production cost. He estimates the total cost of ownership at around EUR 560 per month.
In all, Spowers has invested over EUR 12.5 million in his idea. The European Union has pledged EUR 2 million toward a 12-month test of 20 Rasa cars in Monmouthshire, UK. To receive funding and be able to construct the first half of the beta prototypes, Riversimple launched another crowdfunding campaign some time ago. The campaign’s GBP 1 million goal has since been reached.
As early as 2009, the company had unveiled a similar vehicle. The corporation supplying the 6-kilowatt fuel cell had been Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, which created a division called Horizon Educational Group a few years thereafter (see HZwei, July 2009).
Rasa is short for “tabula rasa,” the Latin term for “scraped tablet” – or, “clean slate.”