THE BLOG

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.

19
Feb

15 years: the countdown to clean cars

The UK Government announced at the beginning of the month that they intend to bring forward by 5 years  to 2035 their ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, and this includes hybrids.

The news hasn’t pleased everybody – the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders are up in arms about ‘changing the goal posts’. Of course, 15 years in ‘car years’ is very little time, and in practice this ruling might well kill the market for most new internal combustion engined cars well before 2035 – who would be investing in a new petrol or diesel car in 2030?

At Riversimple we are delighted.

Riversimple is the only manufacturer in the UK building hydrogen cars for everyday use.  The Rasa, our lightweight eco coupé, is planned to be our first vehicle – the trial we are kicking off this spring in Monmouthshire is designed to optimise the whole customer proposition and, providing that we hit our funding targets, we could be in full volume production in two years’ time with light, super-efficient, clean, zero emission electric cars powered by hydrogen – good news for anyone who lives in a house or apartment that doesn’t lend itself to overnight charging of a battery electric vehicle.

If truth be told, the infrastructure is very patchy for both battery and hydrogen electric cars at the moment – but we are convinced that service stations are just waiting for hydrogen cars to arrive to switch over a couple of pumps on their forecourts, and we are happy to oblige.

Consumer appetite for clean, hassle-free mobility is voracious. We have thousands of people signed up to be potential customers, and from all over the world: Tim in Chicago wants the first yellow Rasa; Pasi in Sweden would like to trial the Rasa in the snowy conditions in Swedish Lapland; we have queries for a test journey in the Rasa through the Alps; and the rare car importer in Tokyo, who passes three hydrogen pumps on his daily commute – we hear you, and we can’t wait to see our cars gliding quietly, and cleanly, on roads around the world!

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.

 

03
Jan

“Where do you get the hydrogen from to refill your cars?”

Motorway nodes or local hubs?

This blog post has been inspired by the thoughtful input from the Riversimple Design Forum on the topic of refuelling. Having received a plethora of comments and queries from all over the UK and Europe we thought the question of hydrogen infrastructure, often cited as the main barrier to the uptake of hydrogen vehicles, deserved a Riversimple explanation.

First, some context; there are currently 17 active hydrogen refuellers in the UK with a further 5 in the immediate pipeline. Behind these projects are a mixture of universities, manufacturers and fuel providers. Most new projects are being built along motorways and trunk roads with the aim of linking towns and cities together, supporting intercity driving and, by default, longer journeys. As if to prove the point, Toyota drove one of its Mirais the length of the country refuelling at 4 different locations. Great. There is undoubtedly a need for these types of journeys, whether a UK based holiday or a job that requires a lot of driving, but with the average car journey lasting only 22 minutes (DfT, 2017) the majority of journeys are not catered for in this model.

While any additional hydrogen refueller is wholeheartedly welcomed, we believe that the key to eliminating the environmental impact of personal transport is closer to home, providing for the 94% of all journeys that are under 25 miles. When asking our Design Forum their refuelling habits, 79% said that they timed refuelling with other regular activities such as shopping or commuting and 70% used the same one or two stations. In contrast only 1% of people reported refuelling at motorways ‘often’ whereas 86% of people said they would ‘never’ refuel at a motorway or ‘only if they had to’.

One of the benefits of a hydrogen electric vehicle such as the Rasa is that it can be refuelled in the same way as a conventional petrol or diesel car.  Just a simple pump on a forecourt, hydrogen refuellers have the opportunity to be located in familiar locations such as supermarket car parks and local service stations. Our data shows that convenience is king and convenience means local; local to your home, your work or your supermarket. A 300 mile range means that you only need a reason to come into town once a week or so and  you’re sorted – in fact, with the Rasa you fill up and drive away without paying!

We have installed the 17th hydrogen refueller in the UK (2nd in Wales). We chose the location in Abergavenny because it is located in the town’s main car park, next to the bus station and a short walk from the train station. It is in the middle of the town which offers a weekly market and a well stocked high street (yes, they still exist), a supermarket and theatre. Most of the people participating in the Riversimple Clean Mobility trial already pass within 5 miles of the refueller weekly, if not daily.

We believe that this model of smaller units based in local communities offers a solution to the chicken and egg problem – which has to come first, cars or filling stations? The motorway pumps will hardly ever see a car (there are currently only 93 hydrogen cars on the roads in the UK), whereas the Riversimple pump will have a captive fleet of 20 vehicles all refuelling approximately once a week. Let’s see the new filling stations being supported by the government going into the heart of the community and build up a nationwide network of vehicles and filling stations hand in hand.

If you would like to join the Riversimple Design forum and be part of the discussion then please register HERE

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.

10
Apr

THANK YOU AND WELCOME, RIVERSIMPLE CROWD

As our first crowdfunding closed at midnight on Sunday 9th April, we were thrilled to have reached over £1,138,000. A huge thank you to all those who have pledged to join us on this exciting and important journey towards clean and efficient cars.

Photographer: Anthony Dawton

In the meantime, we have fitted a new back end to the Rasa made of bio carbon, with layers of flax woven into it.

Inspired by nature in so many ways, the car has butterfly  doors and  now a ‘whale fluke’ boot, which will comfortably take a set of golf clubs or, if it is more to your taste, two cabin bags and a case of wine.

And that is good news as we definitely have occasion to celebrate! The entire team in LLandrindod Wells is in very high spirits. Thank you all.

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