Riversimple has a production prototype for a mass-marketable hydrogen-powered car, and an unconventional plan for how people will use it. The company is hoping to have the vehicles come to market by 2018, but real-world prototype testing is already underway on roads all over the UK.
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The sleek, euro-futuristic design of Riversimple‘s new car, the Rasa, is the work of Chris Reitz, who is the former design chief for the Fiat 500. The car is named after the Latin phrase “tabula rasa,” or the blank slate. It’s a nod to the uncharted territory that faces alternative-fuel vehicles as they move forward, and the new beginning that must come after the exhaustion of fossil fuels.
Riversimple doesn’t want you to buy the Rasa. Seems counterintuitive for a car company, but they’re focusing on selling long-term lease plans to consumers, which would include the car, all required maintenance, insurance, and all the hydrogen refills they’ll need. It would be a monthly subscription fee that would take much of the hassle out of car ownership.
Riversimple’s Rasa is a small two-seater vehicle made of extremely light and durable carbon-fiber composites. It’s the same material that Tesla Motors uses in some of its vehicles because it’s a way get the strength of steel at a small fraction of the weight. The carbon-fiber composite chassis of the Rasa weighs only 40kg.
The hydrogen fuel cell at the heart of the Rasa is nearly a zero-emissions system. Only water is created from the chemical reactions, unlike the long list of polluting by-products from gas combustion engines. But 95% of commercially-available hydrogen is produced from natural gas, which is a non-renewable fossil fuel.