18 Feb

Hydrogen Technology is what will save the world, or at least that’s my theory if it can get into the hands of the masses. Today Stelvio Automotive takes a look at the little car with the big ideas, the Riversimple Rasa.

By Sean Smith
Anyone who knows me or has read a few of my previous articles about electric cars will know that I am not a fan of the battery technology powering the current generation of electric cars. I do not believe that batteries will ever be able to be the best long term answer for the industry or people who have to pay for it.

Hydrogen fuel cells, now that’s a very different story.

Fuel cell technology, in modern times, came to prominence when Honda released the FCX Clarity in 2008 (above). It was the first car powered by hydrogen which was available to the public, albeit in a very limited capacity. It was tested in California and Japan with a total production volume of 46.

Its successor was launched in 2016 and in the last couple of years Honda and Toyota, two of Japan’s big 3 car companies, joined forces to produce the infrastructure for the hydrogen future of their country which they both see.

But it’s all very good having these multi billion pound corporations producing small volume, ultra-expensive cars for wealthy test drivers in California. But they don’t address the concerns which electric cars have faced too in the past decade. What about the everyday car, this is where the Riversimple Rasa comes into the picture.

The Rasa is a tiny, 2 door (or 4 door) sports coupe. It’s made in Wales. And is potentially the answer to a lot of the concerns of the hydrogen car.

Its looks are admittedly divisive, you’ll either really like it or you’ll think it looks like a Jetson’s rip off. I’m in the former group, although I don’t like the face of it very much, it looks too much like a McLaren F1. But I do like sports car looks, that’s why I have a Toyota Celica, so this little sports car I think is pretty cool. But it’s not just skin deep as to why I like it. That said…

This car has great aerodynamics, they’re in full effect with this car, from the rear wheel covers to the teardrop silhouette of the body and even the skinny wheels which will reduce rolling resistance and disturb the air far less than a conventional width wheel and tyre. This minimal resistance concept always gives good looking vehicles in my opinion and the Rasa is a good example of this.

Despite these aerodynamics, the Rasa only has a top speed of 60mph. Oh no, every petrol head in the land is now disappointed. Well I’m not. Look at it this way, what is the national speed limit on the vast majority of the UK’s roads? 60mph or less is the answer.

Even on a dual carriageway the limit is 70mph and the majority of the time when you’re driving to work and you’re on a dual carriageway or motorway in rush hour your very unlikely to even be doing 60mph. What’s more if you’re doing over 70mph you are breaking the law and deserve to be sent to prison for endangering other motorists.

What you’re not considering also is that hydrogen technology is electric. That means the Rasa is quick at getting to 60mph, taking about 10.5 seconds, the same as a brisk hatchback which is exactly who the guys at Riversimple are targeting. They say the Rasa will cost less than £500 a month on lease including the price of the hydrogen fuel it needs to fill up. In other words no more than a Golf, a Civic, a Focus or any other car which you’re currently buying to sit in your traffic jams. The Rasa can also do about 300miles on a full tank, comparable to petrol cars removing range anxiety from owners fears.

The Riversimple Rasa single handily makes an economic answer to the hydrogen cost concern; however, there is one more issue with the technology, the pressure of storing the hydrogen within the car. The Rasa stores hydrogen at 5,000psi, a huge number, but half that of other cars before it.

Being able to store the hydrogen at a lower pressure makes the parts cheaper which makes the car cheaper as well as slightly safer, allowing Riversimple to target the mainstream conventional car market. (Please note a hydrogen fuel cell is already as safe if not safer than any petrol tank).

The Riversimple Rasa was designed by an ex-Formula 3 team owner, and that motorsport heritage shines through. The car is made of carbon fiber so safety is at the peak of what is possible. Add this to the aerodynamics along with the next-gen hydrogen storage and it's clear the company are pushing the boat out with their technology. It results in them developing a reasonably priced car for the masses which could really kick-start the industry in the UK, maybe the world.

But even if Riversimple themselves don’t become a mainstream manufacturer, their technology will be what others learn from and allow the industry to grow. If you don’t like the looks, it doesn’t matter, a body is easy to change, it’s what’s underneath that matters.

Hydrogen is the future as I’ve said before; it’s now time for it to start becoming a reality. Fossil fuels won’t last forever and battery vehicles are not the answer, hydrogen is our Holy Grail saviour and I can’t wait for the day I can finally have my own hydrogen car because it will be a better world when it happens.