Category: Design

13
Sep

PIONEERING: COOPER, LOTUS, RIVERSIMPLE

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.

Chapman’s Lotus 15 1959 –engine is still at the front

Chapman’s Lotus 15 1959 –  the engine is still at the front


Cooper Mk Vlll with rear engine 1950s

Cooper Mk Vlll with rear engine 1950s

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.

NEW PURPOSE

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.

Riversimple Rasa H2 fuel cell powertrain 2015

Riversimple Rasa H2 fuel cell powertrain 2015

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.

 

22
Jun

GETTING REAL ABOUT AIR POLLUTION

We loved a recent tweet about Riversimple Rasa “I’d rather be cycling behind one of these.”

Cyclists on British roads sit on the frontline of traffic pollution.  It’s pretty unfair really, since they are not the ones responsible for that pollution.

Being able to travel from A to B is a fundamental part of modern life.  But then again breathing good quality air is pretty fundamental too!  The evolution of the car is a marvelous story, but our love affair with the combustion engine is slowly coming to an end.  Cleaner cars are on their way.  Just take a look around a busy parking lot and you will see how rapidly we are shifting to alternative fuels – cleaner, greener, better.

At Riversimple we are 100% with that cyclist.  None of us want to breathe in a cocktail of pollutants that include nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide; carbon monoxide, and the heavy particulates associated with smog.

RASA TECHNOLOGY

As with all battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, the Rasa emits zero nasty emissions at the tail pipe, but a recent report published by Peter Achten and Victor Timmers of Edinburgh University highlights the problem of particulate emissions.  These emissions can come from the tyres and brakes as well as engines.  In fact, now that filters are so good, even diesel cars emit more particulates from tyres and brakes than from the engine.  According to the Achten/Timmers report, because many electric vehicles are heavier than combustion-engined cars, they emit higher levels of particulates.
The Riversimple answer is to go deeper into the design.REAR QUARTER SMOOTHED

The Rasa is strong but light – less than a third of the weight of the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car.  This minimises any particulate emission from the tyres, because emissions are proportional to weight.  But even more significantly, the braking system for the Rasa is primarily electrical, rather than dependent on friction.

There are only two instances when the Rasa production model will rely upon friction brakes:

–           emergency stops, anything over 0.3g

–           below 5mph, when there is not enough braking torque

So the only regular release of brake particulates would be when braking at speeds below 5 mph.  However, as our engineers will tell you, the quantity of particulate release from friction braking is proportional to the kinetic energy of the car when you start braking.  At 5mph, the kinetic energy of the car is less than 0.7% that at 60mph.  In other words, particulates not a problem.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

In the wild, animals have a deep- seated ability to react to stimulus.  And in the longer term whole species can adapt to change through the process of natural selection.  It’s a simple, obvious thing – organisms that do not react, do not survive for long.

A similar ability to react is needed in industry.  Air pollution levels are unacceptable and some levels recorded are breaking regulations.  Changing the regulations, put there to protect our health, is no solution.

The businesses that are fittest for the times will survive and thrive.  Great news for people who breathe air.  Bad news for dirty, polluting industries with their heads still stuck in the sand.

18
May

RIVERSIMPLE UNVEILS NEW HYDROGEN VEHICLE CONCEPTS

 

Prince Michael of Kent is gripped

Prince Michael of Kent is gripped

This May we have been at the London Motor Show, with the Rasa.  As people flocked to see the car, Hugo (Spowers) made a special announcement to the press, revealing that we have further hydrogen vehicle concepts in the pipeline.  London was sunny, the MotorShow was busy, and the Rasa prototype was a star attraction.

Will Priestner with Richard Noble at the London MotorShow

Will Priestner with Richard Noble at the London MotorShow

It’s an idea that sparks the collective imagination – a hydrogen fuel cell car, built in Wales, taking on industry giants with a smart new proposal for personal transport in the 21st Century.  This year we have shown the world that Riversimple’s slick new technology is more than just an aspiration.  The Rasa prototype is on the road and doing what we said it would do – and the world is taking notice.

A few years ago Riversimple Rasa didn’t have a name, or a design and the powertrain was very much under development.  But if we hadn’t had a vision back then, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today.  Here is an insight into the breadth and depth of the Riversimple vision today.

THE VAN

Hydrogen powered van concept

Riversimple hydrogen van concept

The van is one of the previously undisclosed designs by Chris (Reitz) for Riversimple.  It’s based on the same groundbreaking technology as the Rasa and positioned as a local delivery and local service vehicle – but it’s also a smart looker, just right for carrying the surf boards to the coast at the weekend.

Looking even further ahead, Riversimple is exploring the possibility of a flexi-contract.  With this option people with a Rasa car contract could possibly have an extra option to ‘book a Riversimple van’ for occasional use.  Or indeed people with a Riversimple van contract could have the option to book a nippy Rasa car for a few days.

THE SEDAN

Riversimple four door hydrogen car concept

Development of a four-door Riversimple sedan is also very much a part of future plans.  The sedan will be more powerful than Rasa, but dramatically lighter and more efficient than the five-seater hydrogen fuel cell cars currently being produced.

AERODYNAMIC STYLE

Riversimple designs are highly aerodynamic in their styling.  To understand aerodynamics, think of a wall of air that pushes against a vehicle in motion.

The Rasa in Piccadilly

The Rasa in Piccadilly

The Rasa crossing Albert Bridge

The Rasa crossing Albert Bridge

From the 50s and 60s engineers in the racing world have experimented with different streamlined shapes to slip through that wall of air, making their cars go faster and handle better.  In the racing world, it doesn’t matter if there is no space in the car for anyone or anything other than the driver.  That isn’t the issue. Winning the race is the issue.

For Riversimple good aerodynamics mean improved acceleration plus far better fuel economy, because the engine doesn’t have to work so hard to push the car.  But other design elements such as passenger comfort, space, elegance and safety cannot be compromised either.  For example, a car shape that is very low and rounded, tapered so that air flows around it smoothly in motion – like a teardrop – is excellent in terms of aerodynamics.  But it was a realization that the length of the car won’t affect aerodynamics which gave Chris and the design team something more elegant, more spacious and with much more potential to work from.  This design idea is reflected in all Riversimple vehicles, from Rasa to our latest concept vehicles.  Welcome to the Riversimple journey.

05
May

THE BARCELONA CONNECTION – MEET CHRIS REITZ

Barcelona is a city of visions – of football stars and fashion – of ancient sculpture and modern art – of streets winding down to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a good place to talk aspiration and design with Chris Reitz, a key figure in the story of Riversimple.

Chris is a member of the Porsche family. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Vevey, Switzerland – a college that has a reputation for producing top quality car designers. Chris has headed up design teams at Alfa Romeo and Fiat. He now lives and works out of Barcelona and is design artist for the Riversimple Rasa.

Q: What brought you to Riversimple?

I love cars.  I grew up with people who live and work everyday in this world.  I am inspired by creating something courageous – ahead of the curve.

Q: How do you even begin to design a car?

Design is many disciplines – it’s not just about shape and surfaces – it is about what is needed and who is it for.  Let’s talk about our car, the Riversimple Rasa.  We start with a very radical business idea to design a hydrogen fuel cell car that is super light and super strong – and so we have to ask, how will we express this in the design – and who will it be for – who is the customer?

This is exciting for the artist.  For a startup business there is no existing brand – no Nissan, no Lotus, no story to define how we write the first marks on the page. We are designing something completely fresh.

A group of us at Riversimple worked together to shape the idea – this included Hugo (Spowers), Fiona (Clancy) and Richard (Coltart).  We asked ‘What will people expect of a hydrogen fuel cell car?’ And ‘What will motivate them to choose this new technology?’

If an actor plays a boxer in a movie – the actor has to understand how this person boxes in order to play the part well.  So we began by imagining the different kind of people who might be Riversimple customers – what are their lifestyles and their everyday needs – what will make this car a good decision for them?

Q: What do you think early adopters most wish this car to be?

Early adopters are very open in their mind – they like to have their finger on the pulse, they look for a car with style. Not so long ago, the Prius became a statement for famous sports personalities and actors – this is not superficial: enthusiasts for clever, sustainable, technical, environmental and economical solutions are an important influence.

CAD image of the Rasa

CAD image of the Rasa

In appearance this car must reflect elegance without compromising safety. For example, the shoulder of the car is wider than the cabin and this gives us stability and also fluidity.

Another fundamental element is sustainability. A good aerodynamic design will allow the wind to slip past the car in motion, refining the vehicle performance and efficiency.RIVERSIMPLE_3_4_REAR_VIEW_WAREHOUSE So we have low overall height, with space for the wind to flow underneath as well.  The spats over the rear wheels of the Rasa reduce turbulence to a minimum. Each design element minimises resistance and becomes a fluid part of the whole.

Finally, safety. Safety will be synonymous with all vehicles in the Riversimple family. The carbon fibre framework takes the form of a single carbon fibre monocoque originating from racing car design. Racing cars must be super strong and super light and very protective to the driver. Likewise, Riversimple cars.

Q: The butterfly doors are very eye catching – are they more about style than substance?

It has been our intention to design an honest car every step pf the way – to inspire people, reassure them, take them with us on the Riversimple journey.  The butterfly wings are eye-catching but the design element has purpose.  We have a car that is low in height and this is very aerodynamic, but if we use standard doors for the Rasa, we will have a problem with the ability to get in and out of the car easily.  The butterfly doors open out of the roof and so they create space for people to get in and out easily and elegantly.

The Rasa style says ‘this is the future’ but without trying to be flamboyant. We don’t want a style that will simply create a stir and then go out of fashion. We have long term plans and other vehicles in the pipeline, so the look and feel must encompass an element of timelessness.

Over the course of the public trials, we will be adding further refinements to the car. We have some special and amazing design features to add. The production version of the Rasa is going to be very exciting.

Help fund the public trials by investing in Riversimple here.

 

25
Feb

RASA FOR THE 21st CENTURY

The car seats of Riversimple Rasa are a bit special. They’re covered in a durable and luxurious PET fabric that looks like suede …The Riversimple Rasa

… this high quality material has been manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. It’s just the kind of product choice that reflects our commitment to a supply chain fit for the 21st Century. But this isn’t just about recycling …

The Circular Economy

Ellen Macarthur first hit the headlines in 2001 when she sailed a racing yacht single-handedly around the world at just 24 years of age.  Ellen says that sailing has given her a very real understanding of what it means to rely on a finite supply of resources, as on the boat food, water and fuel are inescapably linked to success or failure. Since then, Ellen has become an ambassador for the Circular Economy, focused upon the big solutions that will conserve resources for the future.

One major step is to design products that last.  It’s perfectly possible, but the problem is that durable products are less compatible with business models based upon selling and selling and selling.

Dr. Stafford Lloyd joined Riversimple from Rolls Royce plc.  He tells a story about his previous workplace which required the installation of high quality showers to wash off corrosive substances in case of accident. With high safety standards, such accidents were most unlikely and the showers were not expected to need replacing regularly.  The manufacturers decided to lease the showers. They installed and carried out regular maintenance for a contractual fee … and business thrived.

In choosing to sell a service, the lasting quality of a product is translated into profit.

As Systems and Sustainability Engineer at Riversimple, Stafford is on a quest to ensure that every component part of the Riversimple supply chain is of long lasting quality.  A grant from Innovate UK supports his work in association with existing suppliers and specialists

Eco Design Centre WalesQSA , KS CompositesSwagelok,  Mark Water Pumps 

and together they are developing a new business tool.  This tool will be able to calculate the financial and environmental implications of sale-of-service for each supplier.  Participating companies will be involved in a pilot scheme, that will be run in conjunction with the customer trial of the Riversimple Rasa.  It could be a bit of a breakthrough for suppliers considering sale of service and we’ll keep you posted.

Stafford Lloyd on our Hydrogen test rig

Stafford Lloyd on our Hydrogen test rig

Can I buy a RASA?

No but Rasa will be available to you one day soon we hope – through a subscription package, typically of 1 – 3 years.  This will mean that

– All kinds of people will be able to choose a fuel cell car and drive away without leaving an invisible trail of pollution

– RASA subscribers won’t need to worry about the big issue of depreciation

– And RASA subscribers won’t have to worry about fuel bills, maintenance, servicing or insurance.

Which we think could be an attractive new proposition for the 21st century. Of course sustainable is possible.

09
Dec

LIGHTER ELECTRIC CARS

When you stop to think about the wide range of cars on the market today, from gas-guzzlers to electric cars, it’s clear that design choice can have an enormous effect on how much fuel the car consumes, how this will affect performance, and what impact it will have upon the environment.

We have designed the Riversimple Mk2 to be extremely fuel efficient with ultra low emissions but at the same time fun to drive and with a great range.

Fundamental to the great spec of our new car is lightness. Continue Reading..

27
Nov

DESIGNING THE LOCAL CAR

There is a story about the original design brief for the 2 CV.  It was written in the 1930s when much of France was still rural farmland and in the brief it was stipulated that
2CV “it should be a car that you can drive across a ploughed field while it’s loaded up with trays of eggs, without breaking the eggs”.  This idea touches upon something important to us all. It’s about having a car that becomes part of the way we live.  At Riversimple we have been busy designing that car.  We think of it as a local car.Continue Reading..

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