Hydrogen cars: Making zero emissions profitable

How can Britain build the low-carbon vehicles of the future; and will they be powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells?

Hugo Spowers, Founder and Company Architect of Riversimple Movement Ltd 


The energy efficiency of vehicles is highly dependent on weight, and batteries are heavy. So although battery electric cars have a role in short-range niches, they can never approach the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for the range to which drivers have become accustomed.

FCEVs not only have superior range but, like a petrol car, they can be refuelled in 3-5 minutes.  Hydrogen infrastructure can be incorporated into existing forecourts and places no additional strain on the electricity grid, very good reasons for government policy to remain technology neutral when it comes to infrastructure support. Only by leveraging these advantages can we achieve the optimal environmental outcome.

Riversimple is pioneering lightweight carbon composite hydrogen fuel cell cars that go 300 miles on just 1.5kg of hydrogen – equivalent to 250mpg with petrol – and accelerates 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds. And the 2 seat Rasa does this on an 8.5kW fuel cell, only 11.5 brake horsepower.  But how do you make such technologies affordable?

The trick is to make efficiency profitable

If you sell cars, there is no incentive to improve performance other than regulation, a blunt instrument. Dieselgate exposed the intrinsic tension between environmental performance and delivering to consumers’ expectations.

Riversimple may be the only auto manufacturer that hopes never to sell a car, instead offering the car as part of a comprehensive service that includes maintenance, insurance, and importantly, fuel. “Efficiency is the key metric we’ve got to chase, and making it profitable is a gamechanger. If you provide a service, the longer the car lasts, the more reliable it is and the more efficient it is, the more profitable it is,” explains Hugo Spowers.

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