Riversimple aims to bring hydrogen cars on-stream

9 June 2009

Riversimple HyrbanThis time next week, on 16 June, Hugo Spowers will have unveiled the prototype of his vision for urban mobility. We don’t know exactly what it will be like, but it will be very small, very light, four-wheeled, two-seated and powered by hydrogen.

Spowers was the driving force behind the Morgan Lifecar project, which produced a lovely looking one-off vehicle and a lot of test data but nothing that punters could actually hope to sit in and steer. The new project, Riversimple, aims to produce an actual product.

Not that you’ll be able to buy a Riversimple Hyrban (or whatever the car is called after its launch). But you might be able to lease one. And Spowers has plans to ensure you’ll have somewhere to fill up with the lightest element in the universe for fuel.

What else do we know? The monocoque chassis will be carbon composite; the driving force will come from four in-wheel motors, doubling as regenerative brakes; it has a top speed of 50mph and a range beyond 200 miles. We also know that the fuel cell will have a very modest 6kW output, backed up by 20kg of ultracapacitors to store regenerative energy and to provide four-fifths of the power available for acceleration.

Spowers thinks this combination of energy storage options will conquer the usual problem with fuel-cell cars: not the scarcity of filling stations but simple cost. The fuel cell hardware currently loiters in the region of $2,000 per kilowatt output, and that price needs to fall by a factor of 40 to around $50/kW to be price competitive with internal combustion engines, according to our knowledgeable sources. Which is one reason why you won’t be buying a Hyrban.

We await the launch with interest...

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