Riversimple success: Hydrogen carmaker exceeds £1m crowdfunding target

The world's only independent hydrogen fuel cell vehicle manufacturer, Welsh firm Riversimple, has exceeded its crowdfunding target of £1m which will enable the UK trial of innovative and affordable hydrogen cars.

Riversimple will build 20 hydrogen-powered cars which eliminate the environmental impact of personal transport by emitting just water. The first round of Riversimple’s crowdfunding campaign raised a final figure of £1,138,000 before closing at midnight last night (9 April), the company’s founder Hugo Spowers has confirmed.

“I am delighted that we have not only passed our first tranche target of £1m, but the interest was so keen that we exceeded that figure,” Spowers said. “This is down to a growing demand for low emission personal transport and to the efforts of our team, because the people that work here make this company worth investing in.

“This very definite endorsement demonstrates people’s growing desire to be able to travel in a sustainable way and to start to address the catastrophic effects of pollution and global warming, while losing none of the joy of driving a responsive, beautifully-crafted car.”

Profitability, quality, sustainability

Rasa is the culmination of 15 years of R&D by a team that includes ex-F1 and aerospace engineers and the former FIAT design chief. The two-seater has a range of 300 miles, refills in around three minutes and also generates kinetic energy recaptured from braking. Rasa drives at a top speed of 60mph and has a CO2 efficiency rating of 40g/km. 

Riversimple is partnering with Monmouthshire County Council in Wales to run a 12-month trial of the Rasa. Designs for a four-seater car and a light goods vehicle will be further developed once the Rasa is commercially available in 2019.

More than £4m has already been awarded for Rasa in grants from organisations including the Welsh Government & the EU. The model will be available via an affordable, all-inclusive subscription ‘sale of service’ model, like a mobile phone contract, in line with consumer attitude shift to ‘servitisation’.

Spowers added: “We know from feedback from Riversimple investors that they are particularly interested in our subscription model, which aligns profitability, longevity, quality and sustainability. But the secret is also that the Rasa is a desirable car. It’s sporty, incredibly fun to drive, elegantly styled and has turned heads all over the world.”

Dispelling myths

After spending 20 years being fine-tuned in R&D, hydrogen cars are finally beginning to filter into the market. Fuel cell industry shipments grew by two-thirds in 2016 – compared with 2015 levels – with transport-related fuel-cell capacity doubling to 280MW.

But while hydrogen cars have endorsement at the ready, concerns remain about the lack of availability of refuelling stations. To combat the issue, Riversimple plans to boost hydrogen infrastructure in the UK by developing communities of users around each filling station. Over the next 20 years, Riversimple aims to build a distributed network of manufacturing plants that will regenerate communities and create thousands of jobs.

Oil giant Shell recently launched its first fully-branded hydrogen refuelling station in the UK, with plans already in place to open two more stations in 2017. Shell is a founding member of the Hydrogen Council, which was announced at Davos in January 2017. The Council will pledge $10.7bn towards hydrogen projects over the next five years.

The UK currently has two models available in the forms of the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai ix35 – the latter of which has been dispelling myths about driving range after shattering records during a demonstration drive in London recently. 

As part of a proposed transition to zero-emission road transport, the UK Government has set up a new £23m fund to boost the uptake of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure.

George Ogleby

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