THE BLOG

06
May

Leon Kamhi joins Riversimple as Investor Custodian

We are thrilled to welcome Leon Kamhi as our new Investor Custodian.  In this role, he will represent our investors’ interests clearly and vocally alongside our other Custodians and help to oversee the delivery of our strategy, using his expertise to guide the Operating Board as we scale up. Our many individual investors voted him into office unanimously.

Leon is Head of Responsibility in the international business of Federated Hermes, a global leader in active, responsible investment with billions under management. He drives the responsibility integration programme across the group, ensuring investment teams are aware of and integrate ESG performance in investment decisions – as well as leading several corporate and public policy engagements.

From Leon’s perspective Riversimple is an innovator in this field; “Riversimple’s innovative and environmentally-friendly approach to personal transport and unique, stakeholder-focused governance structure is sustainability in action. I am excited and privileged to join this progressive enterprise as the Investor Custodian”.

Society as a whole has a stake in Riversimple.

Our Future Guardian corporate governance structure is radically different. We have a total of six Custodians, one to represent the interests of each of our critical stakeholders, namely Investors, the Environment, Staff, Community, Customers and Commercial Partners.  They hold the only voting shares in the company and it is the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to balance and protect the benefit streams of each one.  We are fortunate to have Estelle Clark, who has been advising the IoD, ISO and UKAS on new approaches to corporate governance, to act as Steward.

Nobody is happier to have Leon’s wisdom focused on Riversimple than FD, Chris Foxall, himself an investor in the first instance: “I’m very excited not only to be working in a professional leadership capacity with Leon, whose experience in the area of investor stewardship and corporate responsibility at Federated Hermes is truly impressive, but I’m equally encouraged as an investor that my interests of people, planet and profit will be championed and assured through his role as Riversimple’s Investor Custodian.”

12
Jan

JUERGEN MAIER BECOMES A RIVERSIMPLE CUSTODIAN

We are delighted to welcome Juergen Maier CBE, the former Chief Executive of Siemens UK, as Riversimple’s new Commercial Partner Custodian Director.

Having retired from Siemens only a year ago, Juergen has exceptional experience in collaborating with commercial partners in a wide number of fields, so he comes to this role – as the guardian of their interests in their relationships with Riversimple – with a great depth of understanding.

Riversimple is pioneering a Future Guardian™ governance model, a modern multi-stakeholder corporate governance structure.  Riversimple’s key stakeholder groups are represented by the six Custodian Companies, companies limited by guarantee: Investors; Staff; Environment; Community; Commercial partners; and Customers.

Like everything else at Riversimple, our corporate governance has been designed from a clean sheet of paper to align the interests of all parties and keep our eyes on the Purpose. Founder and MD Hugo Spowers explains, “The company was founded to address the enormous environmental damage created by personal transport and the original intention was to serve the ‘basket of interests’ so often referred to by economists. Shareholder value has primacy in UK law, so we felt that the simplest way to deliver that without a conflict of interests was to make the Environment and other key stakeholder groups shareholders, but without equity rights.”

An Operating Board runs the company with the same autonomy as in any company, but the Board’s fiduciary responsibility is to pursue the company’s Purpose whilst balancing and protecting the benefit streams of all six stakeholder groups, rather than maximising the value of one. The Custodians have a direct influence on the company’s strategy, which they have to approve annually.

Juergen explains his interest in taking on the directorship of Riversimple’s Commercial Partner Custodian company: “ My 33 year career has been characterised by technology disruption creating exciting new industries, supporting technology’s role in creating a more sustainable world, and all of that having a positive societal impact.  I can’t think of another company that embodies all of this as well as Riversimple.  I’m very much looking forward to working with an incredibly ingenious team, creating a new revolution in zero-carbon transport, and creating prosperity for society through that”.

 

02
Nov

A CUSTOMER FIRST IN THE RASA

“Just like a normal car”

There was a chorus of hoorays round our HQ in Llandrindod when we heard this from the first ‘normal person’ to drive one of the Rasas built for the Clean Mobility trial. We had no hesitation in inviting Andrew Davis, our Customer Custodian, to be the first behind the wheel and he took the Rasa for a 45 minute tour of the conurbations of Surrey on a blustery, rainy Tuesday 27th October.

Andrew has been a very important influence on Riversimple for the last 10 years. His role has been to represent customers’ interests and he is one of the six voting shareholders to sign off the strategic direction of the company on an annual basis.

As a borough councillor for Elmbridge in Surrey and the founder of Environmental Transport Association (ETA), Andrew has been very clear about where the priorities of good service lie, and has insisted that we bake those into our service design.  A good car is an important start.

Andrew’s verdict:  “Even with all the talk of Riversimple’s groundbreaking ideas over the years, nothing beats actually driving the Rasa.”

H2CXAnot so normal

The Rasa’s number plate sums up the role of this vehicle – H2 for hydrogen, CX for customer experience – but is also a form of protest about our number plate system.

Age-related number plates are a mechanism for building obsolescence into the marketplace for cars.  The age code is changed twice a year, mimicking the spring and autumn seasons in fashion, and triggers an artificial upsurge in car sales. The effect is to stimulate resource consumption, the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

At Riversimple, we are designing cars to last.  We will be maintaining, refurbishing and upgrading throughout the life of our vehicles so that an older car will be as good as a new one.  This is not unusual in aeroplanes.  We heard recently about the Boeing 747s retiring after 40 years in the sky – how come cars need to be replaced every 3 years?

So we’re not going for normal number plates.  Our plates reminds us that customer experience is key and we’re delighted with our Customer Custodian’s reaction:

“I must say that when we drove the Rasa back into my drive, I got out and looked back at it, I didn’t want you to take it back because it was clearly now mine”.

I think we can say that the Rasa is like a normal car but much more than normal, and of course Andrew, while representing normal people, is much more than a normal person.  Andrew is now stepping down after more than 10 years of supporting the development of Riversimple as Customer Custodian.

Thank you, Andrew.

09
May

THE WONDERFUL STEWART DOW

We are all deeply saddened to have lost Stewart Dow, our Commercial Partners Custodian, to COVID-19. Stewart brought great experience and wisdom to Riversimple.

Stewart worked for BOC, part of the Linde Group, where he was immersed in the field of hydrogen for many years.

2008

He was a catalyst for Riversimple’s early successes, supporting the bid for funding of the LIFEcar project with the Morgan Motor Company which was shown at the Geneva Motorshow in 2008, and then encouraging us to approach the BOC Foundation for support for the Hyrban, which was shown in 2009.

2009

 

Riversimple has a unique corporate structure based on multi-stakeholder governance.  Six stakeholder groups  (Staff; the Environment; the Community; Commercial Partners; Customers and Investors) are represented by ‘Custodians’ who quietly mentor the company and make sure that we are balancing and protecting their interests.  Stewart, representing our commercial partners,  generously made time for this and gave us the benefit of his commercial wisdom.

Steadfast in his belief in what we were doing,  Stewart brought a balanced view to all conversations. His resting face was a smile.  He will be sorely missed by us all.

May he rest in peace.

20
Nov

Interest surges in clean solutions to transport

In the last few weeks, clean mobility, and hydrogen as part of it, has had a crescendo of interest and Riversimple has been very involved in the zero-emission conversation, from award nominations to media coverage, new events and podcasts. As concern about the climate crisis escalates, people are seeking alternatives to the status quo – and that definitely includes clean personal transport.

It’s wider than just the vehicle itself. Our business is truly disruptive, and that resonates with a growing public interest in new ways of doing things: usership not ownership; circularity instead of take, make, dispose; longevity not obsolescence.

In October’s edition of The Manufacturer and in this piece in November’s Autocar, Riversimple founder Hugo Spowers highlights the necessity for both hydrogen electric and battery electric vehicles:

“Some demands are met better by BEVs and some by hydrogen. We need both these technologies; we don’t argue over solar or wind turbines winning the energy race.”

Hugo also outlines hydrogen’s role as a convenient storage vector for intermittent renewables:

“Electricity and hydrogen are very complementary. You can make electricity more efficiently from some sources and hydrogen more efficiently from others. For instance, producing electricity from wind is far more efficient than hydrogen. But when there’s excess wind, you can’t store electricity but you can store hydrogen. On the other hand, hydrogen is made more efficiently from biogas than electricity.”

Auto Futures is a recently-launched Thomson Reuters platform all about the rapidly-evolving automotive industry – and we attended their stylishly executed event, Auto Futures Live, in London at the end of October. We truly enjoyed being amongst a very informed and forward-thinking bunch.

Watch Hugo in their fascinating Fuel of the Future debate with: Helen Lees from Groupe PSA; Ricardo Martinez-Botas, Professor of Turbomachinery at Imperial College London and ClientEarth’s Dominic Phinn.

The BBC’s Fergus Nicholl covered us in this piece which is largely about hydrogen electric cars from the consumer’s perspective – ‘Behind the wheel of a hydrogen car.”  Fergus took the Hyundai ix35 out for a spin and found it a quiet, clean experience.  “But this is a sector in which the upstart start-up can claim a modest place too,” he says. “Outside Llandrindod Wells, a small market town in central Wales, Riversimple aims to lease, not sell, its futuristic hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to a strictly local market.”

“The Riversimple business model – a three-year fixed price lease aimed at short-distance local drivers – is designed to negate the biggest problem affecting hydrogen cars: range anxiety.”

Hugo himself has also been in focus this autumn. In the era of the cult of personality, his dogged pursuit of Riversimple’s goal – personal mobility with zero environmental impact – has attracted attention. He can be little unreasonable at times. Or, possibly, the most unreasonable of people… Hugo was presented with the London Business School’s George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award on 14 November!

Hugo with Jeff Skinner and Justin Birkinshaw of LBS. Hugo was both the judges’ and the people’s choice for this award “for an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way”.

Other recent coverage includes this BBC World Service business report on hydrogen cars; this article in French business magazine Challenges; this brilliant Fully Charged podcast, which explores aspects of our atypical business model; and most recently this film on CNBC, featuring Head of Powertrain Dr Nico Sergent.

 

20
Oct

Green GB?

We had the privilege of meeting Claire Perry on Thursday at Cardiff University and she loved the Rasa – the innovation in it, its efficiency, the fun it offers.  She was there to mark the first Green GB week, led by the Government and UK R&I, with the aim of engaging the British public on the importance of tackling climate change and ensuring clean growth.

While it would appear perfect timing for us – the first Rasa Beta is rolling off the production line here in Powys, Wales – we cannot overlook the irony that this week a whole new fossil fuel industry has lurched into life with the blessing of this government, just days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued their sobering report on the global climate situation.  Addiction is always hard to break but, if we are addicted to fossil fuels, fracking really is trawling for the dregs, analogous to the stereotype of tramps drinking methylated spirits!

It is causing us some cognitive dissonance.  How can we believe in the government’s sincerity about championing Clean Growth while they are supporting the opposite?

Less unsustainable is still not sustainable

This week Cuadrilla started fracking for shale gas.  The UK Government are stating that shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, economic growth and jobs, and could be an important part of our transition to a low carbon future.  Literally undermining our national parks is hardly a bridge to a low carbon economy – it’s a very circuitous route at best. Any distraction from the real work of getting our renewable energy sector off the ground is very shortsighted – why not take the high road and invest directly in renewable energy?

Divesting and investing

Last month the Mayors of London and New York made a public appeal for cities to divest from fossil fuels.  In a joint statement they said, “We believe we can demonstrate to the world that divestment is a powerful tool and a prudent use of resources.  And that, together, our cities – New York, London and many others around the world – can send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry: change your ways now and join us in tackling climate change.”

Scottish Power announced their own divestment this week – that they are turning to 100% wind power shows what can be done.

Our refueller installed in Abergavenny

We are often asked where the hydrogen for our cars comes from.  Right now, hydrogen is reformed from natural gas for a large number of industrial processes; it is also a byproduct of many.  While it’s more efficient to generate hydrogen than electricity from natural gas (70% rather than 49% – p.147, DUKES 2018), and we are making the most of any hydrogen we use – you can go 200 miles on a kilo of hydrogen in a Rasa,  as opposed to 66 miles in a Toyota Mirai – we are looking forward to plentiful green sources of hydrogen.  Electrolysis from green electricity, photo catalysis, waste from methane-eating bacteria … bring them on!

Now that would be something to invest in, Minister!

 

23
May

RIVERSIMPLE ACCELERATES IN DUBAI

Riversimple has just returned from a two-month accelerator project in Dubai – an initiative that has seen the Rasa and our philosophy embraced by a completely different culture living in a much harsher environment. 

The timing wasn’t great, with 20 Beta test cars to get built in Wales, but when the Dubai Future Foundation, headed by Dubai’s Crown Prince, invited us to take part in the 4th Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) programme, we jumped at the chance. We were sponsored  by a powerful government department: the Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

The view from the top of the Emirates Towers

Dubai is a place like no other. It laid its first modern brick in 1973 and is now a city state of 3 million thoroughly multicultural people. Furthermore, it continues to expand at a furious pace. Despite its terrible air quality, mad traffic issues and paradoxical desire to be environmentally friendly, there are 27,000 building projects on the go as we write and the skyscape is a sea of cranes.

The DFA is designed to enable businesses to develop technologies and proposals far quicker than would ever normally be the case. Companies taking part (37 in our ‘Cohort’, selected from 677 applicants) are hosted in the Government’s offices to allow for accelerated processes, hence the DFA’s tag-line: ‘pulling the future forward faster’.

The entrance to our office

Dubai is unashamedly determined to be quickest, boldest, biggest, highest, cleverest and altogether ‘the mostest’, not only among other Emirate states but also among all countries of the world. It also happens to be one of the hottest and dustiest places, humid and salty, so pretty tough for the Rasa. But that provides the perfect opportunity for us to ‘accelerate’ our technology development for much more extreme climates. We want to bring a Whole System Design approach to developing both a highly efficient cabin cooling system and  fuel cell cooling technologies. That done, the Rasa and its descendants could operate in a far wider, much warmer market.

So, for the past 8 weeks, a revolving team of Riversimple personnel have been in the DFA offices investigating how the RTA – and other independents – could embrace not only the hydrogen economy, but also our technology, circular economy business model, and a culture of ultimate efficiency.

We have met with around 80 different interested parties, exploring opportunities with R&D establishments, data specialists, blockchain experts, niche vehicle builders, financiers, transport companies (not least the RTA themselves), energy suppliers and distributors, entrepreneurs and developers, the EXPO 2020 organisers, and a host of national and federal government officials. The Welsh Government were there to support. It was a rollercoaster of dialogue and investigation and the result is an agreement with the RTA to progress our agenda, ultimately – we hope – building a dedicated Dubai-friendly prototype.

So, in the land of big cars with big wheels and big engines we are pleased to report that our championing of the hydrogen future, our circular economy model and all things Rasa have found synergy. And if small can be recognised as beautiful there, it can be anywhere.

Our grateful thanks are due to the Dubai Future Accelerators (in particular our Project Manager Faisal Kazim and Program Managers Karin Gabriel and Abdallah Kanaan), the Future team of the RTA (in particular the wonderfully enthusiastic and technically-savvy Mohamed Saleh Al Shareef), and our friends and advisors Kyle Weber, Dr Alessandro Zampieri and Mohamed and Abdulsalam Haykal).

09
Feb

2018:THE WORLD IS MOVING IN RIVERSIMPLE’S DIRECTION

Air pollution concerns have really brought the need for clean cars to the fore. Now that combustion-engined vehicles have a ‘Sell By’ date of 2040, there is much greater focus on practical and viable alternatives and the question of scale is surfacing. What are the 34 million cars in the UK alone going to be replaced with?

On one level, this is clearly an opportunity to lower the total number of cars in circulation and move to more shared vehicle usage, especially in cities where owning a car is becoming ever more onerous.

But what will the cars of the future be running on?  Whilst battery electric cars will have a part to play, large-scale adoption is likely to be stymied by the ~50% of UK customers who do not have easy access to overnight charging.

Shell/ITM hydrogen station, Cobham Surrey

Each publicly accessible battery charger only supports a handful of cars. A hydrogen refueller, on the other hand, can be placed on an existing forecourt and, like a petrol station, support thousands of cars. Per car served they are massively cheaper, so at scale, hydrogen infrastructure is more economical.

Senior automotive executives share our perspective on the potential for hydrogen cars, according to KPMG, and a recently highlighted industry shift towards fuel cell investment has seen Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nikola One refocus on hydrogen-powered models, which has put the spotlight on our engineering approach in this time of critical change for the auto-industry.

Riversimple remains ahead of the pack with the lightest, most efficient fuel cell car – which, incidentally, also makes it the cleanest. No emissions except pure water and a fraction of the particulates of other cars (thanks to skinny tyres, low weight and electrical braking).

We are now embarking on our next crowdfunding round. Our focus is on Beta testing the car and service with the public and the funding will get the Rasa into Beta series production.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who responded to our plea for Beta test drivers. We hope to engage with as many of you as possible in refining design and service features, even if  you are too far from Monmouthshire to be a driver.  .

 

 

 

07
Jan

GROWING PUBLIC INTEREST IN RIVERSIMPLE AND THE RASA

Talking to the public about Riversimple and showing the Rasa at events is an important part of growing the Riversimple movement. We reported last summer about our hectic public activities to June last year, and the second half of last year saw no let-up.

In August, we joined the Hydrogen Hub in Swindon for a day dedicated to the local hydrogen economy. There is a refuelling point there and over 30 organisations are working together to develop projects to deploy hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Our progress also drew a very prominent visitor to our HQ – Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, along with a team of engineers, dropped by in a helicopter much to the amusement of golfers on the local green!

In September Riversimple founder Hugo Spowers gave a lecture at the Institute of Engineering and Technology and we presented at the Unreasonable World Impact Forum at the Royal Institution in London.

In October, Hugo was a panel speaker at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester chaired by Jesse Norman, Undersecretary for Roads and Transport, on the subject of decarbonising road transport and he spoke again at the prestigious Wired Energy Conference in London, while senior engineer Dr Stafford Lloyd spoke at a House of Lords committee meeting on zero emission vehicles.

In November, while the Rasa went to the Advanced Engineering Show at the NEC and then on to Brussels to support the annual review of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), Hugo spoke in Bratislava at the UNIDO Conference on the Circular Economy for the automotive industry and

 Stafford went to Uruguay to present at the first Circular Economy Forum for Latin America which was subsequently featured in the Disruptive Innovation Festival  – Riversimple is an Emerging Innovator Member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100. 

In December, Hugo gave the inaugural David Mackay Memorial Lecture to the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Group of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and addressed the Innovation team of the Welsh Government the day afterwards.

But maybe powertrain architect Dr Nico Sergent had the sunniest December speaking engagement, at the Energaïa conference in Montpelier in the Occitane region of France.

In the meantime, back at Riversimple HQ, the workshop and R&D teams have been busy fine-tuning the software and modifying some of the hardware for the build of new Beta cars. The new carbon fibre chassis includes front and rear subframes and is 20 kgs lighter in total.  More on the technology next time.

May 2018 be a Happy Year for all enterprises focused on eliminating negative environmental impact.

 

 

04
Jul

FROM SWANSEA TO BAKEWELL – THE RASA HAS BEEN IN GREAT DEMAND

We have been to a wonderful series of summer events, from grassroots festivals to art exhibitions to internationally-renowned extravaganzas attracting crowds of over 250,000. Whatever the audience, people are impressed by the Rasa’s sophisticated, ultra-efficient design and our game-changing business model. We remain the only car-maker to adopt a circular economy, and we are sticking firmly to our fundamental aim of making the car accessible to the many, not the few.

Our first event of the season was the Clean Air Roadshow in Swansea in April, organised by Swansea City Council. The Rasa sat in Castle Square beside two Hyundai FCEV cars owned by Swansea Fire Service – what greater endorsement of hydrogen cars could there be?

At the Hay Festival we discussed sustainable transport with the Festival’s Andy Fryers. The Times also covered our observations about the heated debate between EV owners and FCEV supporters.

The Rasa held its own for a week as a work of art among the Supercars including a McLaren P1 as part of the stunning Art in Motion exhibition at Messum’s Gallery in Wiltshire.

And then the car was honoured to be a key feature in the RHS’s ‘Garden for Changing Climate’ at the Chatsworth Flower Show.  Designed by the University of Sheffield to highlight their report for the RHS on the impact of climate change, the garden itself featured wild flower lawn along with orange and olive trees.

Built by landscape experts Killingley, it was also full of clever ideas to illustrate how to manage future water needs and reuse materials. Changing climate being the theme – the first day of the event was cancelled due to gales and heavy rain!

 

Most recently, we have been in Abergavenny to promote our forthcoming Beta Test of 20 Rasas, starting at the end of the year. We have begun to compile a list of triallists in and around Abergavenny; if you are interested in participating, please click here for more information.