Cooper and Lotus put the UK at the forefront of Formula 1 in the late 50s. As they showed, when it comes to step changes small teams have an unfair advantage. For them there was one simple goal – speed. Many Riversimple engineers come from the racing world but their goal is different – not speed but lightness, in every sense of the word.
In 1948, the Royal Automobile Club employed ex-farmer, James Wilson Brown to turn a wartime airfield and farm into a race track for the first RAC International Grand Prix. On 2 October 1948, a crowd of 100,000 gathered to see Luigi Villoresi beat a field of 22 in his Maserati. A piggery in the middle of the race circuit was protected by hay bales and ropes, with canvas barriers around the outside to keep everyone on the course. The track was Silverstone and the history of Formula 1 racing was in the making. Always edgy and inventive, these early racing cars were technical miracles in their day – built for ‘the purpose of earthbound flight’ – made up of chassis, cockpit, panels, engine, tank, wheels – and nothing else.
COOPER AND LOTUS
Cooper and Lotus put the UK on the Formula One map and rose to the top in the racing world – without ever building an engine. The 1950s was a time when lots of engineering took place at the back of someone’s garage or workshop, often during some spare time after work. Engineer and racing enthusiast Charlie Cooper built the first chassis for a rear engine Cooper – which was to transform Grand Prix racing – in such a workshop. Colin Chapman built the first Lotus around an Austin Seven engine in a lock-up garage behind his girl friend’s house.
These pioneers bought engines off the shelf and then built a very different car around them. They were inventive and talented, and they spent many hours tinkering and trying out new ideas. For them there was one simple goal – speed. Their impressive success can be traced back to their ingenuity; they actually started with less powerful engines than some of their competitors but were able to step up the game by designing a better overall system.
Hugo Spowers, like many Riversimple engineers, comes from the racing world. He left motorsport in order to “pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport”. The Rasa is Riversimple’s first production prototype. The story of its development has much in common with the story of those early F1 pioneers. But the goal is different – not speed but lightness. And we mean lightness in the broadest sense of the word – a car that treads lightly, that leaves the air clean, the future more secure. To meet the goal there are choices to be made. Once you decide to build around a hydrogen fuel cell, a whole new set of options become possible. A lighter car. A new technology. A new system for managing energy use … this is system change. The paradox is that, while you need a large company with a large budget to make incremental improvements to conventional cars, a small, agile team with a small budget may be better placed to make a quantum leap.
The breakthrough at Riversimple is wholly innovative. If you want to help us succeed, join our crowd of investors. We may have started in a small workshop, but we mean to show the world what is possible.