“To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport.”
The Rasa is a road-legal engineering prototype of Riversimple’s first lightweight two-seater hydrogen-powered road car, built for full European type approval. It has a range of up to 300 miles on 1.5kg of hydrogen (equivalent to nearly 250mpg) with the only emissions being water.
Tabula Rasa is a Latin phrase meaning “blank slate”. Inspired by work done in the Rocky Mountain Institute in the 1990s, the Rasa is designed from a clean sheet of paper to run on hydrogen and has a completely different architecture to conventional cars. Tailor-making the Rasa for the characteristics of hydrogen has allowed the use of an 8.5kW hydrogen fuel cell rather than the 85+kW cells used by all other hydrogen vehicles, without compromising the performance of the car.
> At c.40gCO2/km, the Rasa has the lowest carbon emissions for any vehicle ‘well-to-wheel’.
> Riversimple is the first car company 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.
> Riversimple is, as far as we know, the world’s only independent manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
> Riversimple is pioneering a different corporate structure in which all key stakeholder groups actually have a stake. Read more on this here.
Riversimple will provide the car to customers under a service or performance contract. Customers will never actually buy the car; they will take a contract, typically for 1-3 years. It will be similar to a mobile phone contract – just one simple monthly direct debit for the monthly service and a usage charge based on miles. Everything is covered, including insurance and fuel. At the end of the ownership period, they can renew, exchange or return the car. It is that (river)simple!
On being returned, the cars will be updated, refurbished and offered to further customers during their 15 year life, with as much value as possible recovered and re-used at the end of life.
If you sell cars, the more cars you sell, the more money you make. If you offer cars as a service, the longer each car is used on the road, the more money you make.
Fewer natural resources are needed; better quality, longer lasting, more expensive materials are worth using in our cars; the very high cost of carbon fibre and new technology can be amortised over the whole life of the vehicle.
If we offer a service rather than selling cars, we are better in line with the Purpose of the company, namely “To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport”.
Starting later this year, with further funding to match a €2m EU grant, Riversimple will be conducting a public 12-month Beta trial of 20 Rasa pre-production cars as part of the continued development of the first full production model, which is planned to come to market late in 2018.
Drivers taking part in the beta-test, starting towards the end of 2017, will fill up at a refuelling station in Abergavenny, provided by French hydrogen specialist McPhy. With a range of 300 miles, drivers should only need to fill up once a week and it will only take a few minutes.
Once the Rasa goes into full commercial production, the car will be offered to individuals in a strategically planned phased roll-out by region. With a high density of hydrogen cars in one area at a time, the economics to support a hydrogen filling station become viable.
The Rasa is extremely safe. The car is designed according to EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval requirements. We have lots of design features that are entirely focussed on safety, e.g. thick, strong doors, no engine block in the front of the car and a carbon fibre safety cell around the passengers.
The carbon composite chassis absorbs more energy per unit of weight than steel used in conventional road-going vehicles. When it comes to hydrogen, both NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy conclude that hydrogen can be considered safer than gasoline. They conclude that, because petrol is a liquid, air must enter the tank and so a combustible mix is created within the tank itself. However, with hydrogen being stored in compression, air never enters the tank and a combustible mixture can never develop anywhere in the hydrogen system. Furthermore, as hydrogen rises rather than pooling under the car, it doesn’t incinerate the vehicle.
Since the company’s foundation, Riversimple has been through three major stages, each one refining the proposition:
The LIFECar was designed to be an R&D project. Part-funded by the Technology Programme (now Innovate UK), this model ran in a test cell and proved beyond doubt that the technical proposition was viable.
Hyrban 2008-9, development platform through to 2012
The Hyrban was a lab demonstrator designed to prove that a 6kW powertrain could produce the performance required for urban use and demonstrate the Network Electric Platform in a running vehicle. It was capable of 0-50 in 8 secs and 50mph cruise.
The Rasa is a step change in development of the Riversimple vehicle. This model is robust as well as efficient and has been designed for regulations, safety, practicality and ease of use rather than as a powertrain demo. It is designed for EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) and using methodical design processes and standards (ISO26262).
Riversimple intends to go into production with a refined version of this vehicle after the customer trials planned for 2016/7.
There is still plenty of design work to do to go from the engineering prototype to cars ready for the public. Our first task is to build 4 cars to put through crash testing and heavy duty cycles to refine performance, all the while refining and updating the powertrain software.
Then we aim to build 22 cars (20 cars + 2 spares) in batches of five, to trial with public customers. These cars will be fully hand built from carbon fibre. We’re calling the trial a Beta Test because we are inviting triallists to get involved in the refinement of the car and the service.
We are offering 1-3 month contracts to 80-100 users over a period of 12 months.
During this time, we will be gathering feedback from each user on functional and practical issues, as well as service preferences and the logistics of running the service, including customer handovers and technical updates in the vehicles. Regular gatherings, shared feedback, dialogue with designers and engineers, and 24/7 technical support will form part of the trial.
We are aiming for a variety of users – younger and older, men and women, urban and rural, personal, corporate and car-sharing.
Driving data, including observed changes in driver behaviour, will be assessed, as well as satisfaction with the Riversimple experience and perceptions of pricing and value.
We will be tweaking and refining the offer until we are confident that we have the best possible brief for the production cars and the launch service.
We have secured a grant of €2m from EU towards the costs of this trial and have also successfully raised £1.138m through crowdfunding.
Our beta-test will be centred around Abergavenny and the surrounding area. The Rasa has a range of 300 miles, which is a generous week’s driving for most people. If you have a reason to come into Abergavenny once a week or so, refuelling should not take you out of your way.