En­thu­si­asts use Welsh mil­lions build a hy­dro­gen car for rental driv­ing

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - COLIN JEF­FREY

A NEW hy­dro­gen fuel- cell elec­tric ve­hi­cle pro­to­type has been launched with a claimed fuel econ­omy equiv­a­lent to 0,9 ( 100 km).

Dubbed “Rasa,” the new car has a light­weight car­bon- fi­bre mono­coque shell, in- wheel elec­tric mo­tors, a bank of su­per­ca­pac­i­tors charged by brak­ing-re­gen­er­a­tion, and a host of other fea­tures that en­able it to travel up to a claimed 483 km on just a 1,5 kg tank of hy­dro­gen.

A road- le­gal two- seater en­gi­neer­ing pro­to­type, the Rasa by River­sim­ple Move­ment Ltd UK has been de­signed from scratch to meet the com­pany’s brief of light­ness, strength, af­ford­abil­ity and safety, as well the max­imi­sa­tion of fuel econ­omy and min­i­miza­tion of pol­lu­tion. Given that the pol­lu­tion emit­ted by the Rasa is just 40 gCO2/ km “well- towheel”, even if the hy­dro­gen is sourced from nat­u­ral gas, and that wa­ter is the only sub­stance to come out of the tailpipe, the com­pany is claim­ing the low­est car­bon emis­sions for any ve­hi­cle thus far pro­duced.

Be­ing built for full Euro­pean type ap­proval, the de­vel­op­ment of the Rasa was sup­ported by a £ 2 mil­lion grant ( R34,2 mil­lion) from the Welsh govern­ment. Be­gin­ning this year, us­ing matched fund­ing from a € 2 mil­lion Euro­pean Union en­dow­ment, the com­pany will be run­ning a pub­lic 12- month trial of a fleet of 20 Ra- sa pro­to­types. It is ex­pected that the out­come of this on- go­ing de­vel­op­ment will re­sult in the launch of a full pro­duc­tion model to mar­ket some­time in 2018.

“The Rasa en­gi­neer­ing pro­to­type marks an­other key mile­stone in bring­ing an af­ford­able and highly- ef­fi­cient hy­dro­gen pow­ered car to mar­ket,” said Hugo Spow­ers, Founder of River­sim­ple Move­ment Ltd. “We re­ally have started from a clean sheet of pa­per.”

With head­quar­ters in Llan- drindod Wells in Wales, and a de­sign stu­dio in Barcelona, Spain, River­sim­ple was born of the SWARM ( Small 4- Wheel fuel cell pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle Ap­pli­ca­tions in Re­gional and Mu­nic­i­pal trans­port) con­sor­tium pro­ject that aims to build on and ex­pand ex­ist­ing hy­dro­gen re­fu­elling in­fra­struc­ture across Europe, and col­lab­o­rates to pro­duce ve­hi­cles specif­i­cally de­signed to use th­ese hy­dro­gen sta­tions.

Tak­ing the shape of a rel­a­tively low- slung two- seat hatch­back, the Rasa has an in­ter­est­ing ex­te­rior de­sign, with faired rear wheels, a clus­ter of pro­jec­tion head­lamps up front, a vented hatch at the rear, and up­wardswing­ing gull- wing doors. The in­te­rior ap­pears to be a rather un­clut­tered af­fair, and pro­vides a pod- style in­stru­ment bin­na­cle, a sim­ple dash lay­out, and a min­i­mal­ist, but at­trac­tive fin­ish. On the per­for­mance side, the com­pany says that the car will be “light to han­dle, re­spon­sive, and fun to drive” with ac­cel­er­a­tion to 89 km/ h in around nine sec­onds and a max­i­mum speed top­ping out at around 96 km/ h.

With a to­tal kerb weight of just 580 kg, and an 8.5 kW ( 11,4 horses) fuel cell to power the mo­tors con­tained in each of the four wheels, the Rasa also re­cov­ers more than 50% of the ki­netic en­ergy pro­duced un­der brak­ing and stores this in a bank of su­per- ca­pac­i­tors which it then uses to boost ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Not quite in the per­for­mance league of such promised hy­dro- gen fuel cell ve­hi­cles as the Audi h- tron or the Honda Clar­ity, the ex­cep­tion­ally light weight of the Rasa and its re­sult­ing han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics, how­ever, should still make it a fun lit­tle car to drive around town.

Styled by Chris Reitz ( a rel­a­tive of Wolf­gang Porsche and for­mer de­sign di­rec­tor at Alfa Romeo), the com­pany claims that the Rasa has been de­signed and built with in­put from a high­lyskilled in- house team whose ex­pe­ri­ence ranges from For­mula 1 to aero­space en­gi­neer­ing.

All go­ing well, when the ve­hi­cle is fi­nally of­fered for sale at some stage in 2018, the com­pany in­tends to of­fer the Rasa through a “sale of ser­vice” scheme where, for a fixed monthly fee and dis­tance al­lowance, the com­pany will pro­vide all re­pair, main­te­nance, in­sur­ance, and fuel costs.

As a re­sult, driv­ers will not own the car, but sim­ply swap it for a new one or re­turn it at the end of the use pe­riod. This ap­proach, claims the com­pany, will help re­duce the fi­nan­cial bur­den of out­right ve­hi­cle own­er­ship for the av­er­age driver.

“The Rasa gives us the op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce cus­tomers to a more con­ve­nient con­cept of mo­tor­ing, a light­ness of own­er­ship that nei­ther places a bur­den on the pock­ets of mo­torists or the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” says Spow­ers.

“The car is sim­ple, light and fun in ev­ery re­spect.”

PHOTO: RASA

De­spite its low kerb weight of just 580 kg, the Rasa is no stripped- out hy­dro car, but a lux­ury al­ter­na­tive to fos­sil fu­els.

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