Welsh startup Riversimple has made a habit of stating that it was not building a car. The company was building a “mobility system” that rethought transportation from the groun up. That’s the reason its first effort is called the Rasa, after “tabula rasa,” or blank slate. The hydrogen fuel-cell powered two-seater will officially go on sale in 2018.
The Rasa model is focused on various stakeholders like “the environment,” the community, investors, and others rather than just the driver alone. As a result, Riversimple has repackaged the idea of ownership, offering a subscription model where the driver pays a monthly fee that covers the cost of the car, repairs, supply, fuel and insurance. Although the Rasa is not exactly the same as a traditional lease, the mileage will be capped in a similar fashion. Riversimple plans to offer the subscription for about the same cost as a new family-size hatchback.
According to Riversimple, Rasa is “great to drive, safe to drive, fun to drive, light in every respect of the word, quick to refuel,” and fast to accelerate.
The car itself is a two-seater with a bulging back end that makes it resemble a Honda Insight. It has butterfly doors and the body is almost entirely made of carbon fiber composites that weigh only 580 kg. The car is built for everyday driving, not off-roading or heavy highway driving.
The fuel-cell powertrain is called a “Network Electric” system. Fuel-cell enthusiasts will be interested in the 8.5-kilowatt fuel-cell stack, which the company adapted from the ones usually used in a forklift. Four in-hub motors use recovery braking to charge supercapacitors, which are designed to charge much faster than traditional batteries. The batteries release electricity back to the motors, that provide good acceleration. As a result, the hydrogen fuel cells don’t need any other fuel to accelerate, only electrical power to keep the Rasa moving through traffic. The Rasa can get up to 60mph, going from 0 to 60 in a respectable for hydrogen 10 seconds. It should go about 300 miles for every 1.5kg tank of compressed hydrogen, giving the Rasa an average of 250mpg.
The biggest issue facing Rasa in the UK is that there are only four filling stations available to the public. Rasa’s plan is to build and make the cars locally with the goal of building local community support, enough to build a fuel-cell station. According to Riversimple, filling up the tank takes about three minutes.
Development of the Rasa has been backed by government and European Union sources. Riversimple received a grant of more than $2.8 million from the Welsh government, and over $2.2 million from the EU. The EU grant will go to the production of 20 prototypes, which will be tested for a year before the car goes into official production.
Although momentum for hydrogen powered cars seemed to have tailed off, it has picked back up as of late. Lexus introduced the LC 500h, with an amazing 470-horsepower, making it the most impressive hybrid that ever went to market.