New tech: Hydrogen cars

We’ve been out of the office for the last few weeks at Decorex and the Sustainability Show. One of the advantages to attending events like this is to meet people who are at the cutting edge of technology that will make our world more sustainable. We talked to Riversimple at the Sustainability Show about their hydrogen cars. 

“The world urgently needs sustainable transport. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to fundamentally change how we build, power, own and run our cars. And the key is hydrogen. Hydrogen gives us a lighter way. It frees us to make vehicles that are clean and sustainable, affordable and accessible.”

Fiona Spowers, Communications Director, Riversimple

What is a hydrogen car?

A hydrogen car is an electric vehicle that uses hydrogen in fuel cells rather than a battery. Combining hydrogen with oxygen in the fuel cell generates electricity. The electricity is then sent to the motors on each wheel, making the car four wheel drive. The only emission from a hydrogen car is water. The fuel cells use a small amount of platinum, similar to that used in a catalytic converter on a combustion engine. This can be fully recycled. 

The hydrogen car prototypes developed by Riversimple are very efficient. Refilling takes as little as three minutes. They are designed for a range that is comparable to other electric vehicle types at 300 miles. The Rasa uses supercapacitors for acceleration. The cars use regenerative braking. When the car brakes, the heat from the kinetic energy is captured as electricity and sent back to the supercapacitors.  

One of the keys to hydrogen car efficiency is aerodynamics and weight. The Rasa weighs just 655kg in comparison to the Tesla Model 3 long range at 1847kg. Its drag coefficient is 0.248, partly due to its aerodynamic body shape which covers the rear wheels. 

Recycled materials have been used in the vehicles, for example the upholstery is made from recycled PTFE. 

Using green electricity to make hydrogen

Making hydrogen for the fuel cells requires electricity. This can be generated by renewables like wind farms or solar power or it can be generated by using bio methane. Bio methane is actually a more efficient method of making hydrogen at 75% in comparison to making electricity at 49% efficient.

We need clean and renewable electricity to power industries that use a lot of energy, but some of the renewable power we currently produce is wasted. When the grid cannot cope with the electricity input it is throttled. This costs the government money as they pay the renewable utility for throttling. If the excess energy is converted to hydrogen it can be stored. 

When will we see Rasa hydrogen cars for sale?

Not for a while yet. The first Rasa prototype launched in January 2016. A limited number of Rasa cars have been produced and used in projects like the Milford Haven Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) supported by Innovate UK. 

Pembrokeshire County Council and Milford Haven Port Authority users have driven the project cars for thousands of miles and reported results back to Riversimple. The testing feedback will be used to improve the designs for cars that Riversimple will take into production. 

Riversimple operates on circular economy principles. When the cars become available, they will be on subscription rather than available to purchase. The monthly payment will cover use, insurance and refuelling. If you are interested in more information on Riversimple hydrogen cars, sign up for the waitlist at 

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Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.