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
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. 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.