back to article Brits rattle tin for 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

UK hydrogen-powered car outfit Riversimple is inviting investors to open their wallets and buy into what it considers to be the future of four-wheeled transport: the "revolutionary" gas-driven Rasa. A side view of the Rasa The Wales-based company unveiled its prototype Rasa (as in "tabula rasa") back in February. It claims …

  1. Christoph Silver badge

    ero emissions?

    And exactly how are they generating the hydrogen, transporting it, storing it etc. with 'zero emissions'?

    Also, how is the hydrogen stored in the car?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: ero emissions?

      In the car, in a fuel cell. As for the rest of it, that's not so clear.

      1. tony72

        Re: ero emissions?

        The fuel cell is where the hydrogen is reacted, not where it is stored, unless standard terminology has deviated radically in recent times. The hydrogen will be stored in a tank.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: ero emissions?

          'The hydrogen will be stored in a tank.'

          Well that won't help the fuel economy, Sherman or Churchill?

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: ero emissions?

          "The hydrogen will be stored in a tank."

          And that's the part which is most problematic.

          The car and powertrain part are relatively easy. Storing and transporting hydrogen at extreme cyclic pressures - reliably and safely - in such a way that the equipment will last at least a decade is a not-fully-solved materials science problem.

          The liabilities (and PR damage) when a hydrogen tank inevitably ruptures are such that I'm pretty sure insurers will be hesitant to provide manufacturer cover.

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: ero emissions?

            "And that's the part which is most problematic."

            No, not really. First off, the tank pressure is said to be lower than usual, around 350bar. Second, scuba tanks are routinely pressurised at similar pressure and have a life of hunderds of thousands of cycles. Third, yes I do understand that air / nitrogen / helium etc. is not the same thing as hydrogen and specific care has to be taken in the choice and engineering of the material used, but declaring that "problematic" sounds a bit loaded.

            1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip
              Boffin

              Re: ero emissions?

              Has there even been an engineering challenge that wasn't 'problematic'?

              1. caffeine addict Silver badge

                Re: ero emissions?

                "Has there even been an engineering challenge that wasn't 'problematic'?"

                Not an interesting one, no.

            2. PNGuinn
              Go

              Re: ero emissions? DropBear

              The big difference between Hydrogen and the gases normally used for diving is that hydrogen under pressure reacts chemically with the tank, causing embrittlement and rupture.

              Another problem is that hydrogen has a very low calorific value compared with hydrocarbons. That means either a B****y big cylinder of gas (bulky and heavy) or store the fuel as liquid with all the fuel costs of liquifaction and allow it to slowly (over a few days) boil away. **Don't store the car in a garage at home or anywhere enclosed near me if you go down this route.**

              So, with a low pressure cylinder, the range will be exactly what?

              1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: ero emissions? DropBear

                "

                So, with a low pressure cylinder, the range will be exactly what?

                "

                It states the range in the article. Not that it is likely to be any more "exact" than it is with an internal combustion engine car.

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: ero emissions?

              "Third, yes I do understand that air / nitrogen / helium etc. is not the same thing as hydrogen and specific care has to be taken in the choice and engineering of the material used, but declaring that "problematic" sounds a bit loaded."

              Air/nitrogen/helium at any pressure don't cause hydrogen embrittlement (very similiar to neutron embrittlement in the nuke industry). It's bad enough in the CNG industry and the hydrogen there is generally bonded to 4 carbon atoms already (If you've ever seen a CNG tank burst you'll know how dangerous that can be - cars generally get shredded when it happens)

              "Problematic" is actually an understatement and the cyclic nature of the pressurisation along with low mass requirement for transportation add an order of magnitude of complexity to the problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_embrittlement

            4. Vic

              Re: ero emissions?

              Second, scuba tanks are routinely pressurised at similar pressure and have a life of hunderds of thousands of cycles.

              No, not really.

              Most scuba cylinders in the UK have a working pressure of 232bar; these are pressurised to a test pressure of 348bar once every 5 years. A 30-year-old cylinder has only experienced this sort of pressure a handful of times...

              There are a range of 300-bar cylinders in use; these have their own problems (not least that the gases are very much non-ideal at those pressures, so you don't get nearly as much as you thought you might[1]), Weight does become an issue...

              And all this is before we get to the problems of hydrogen - others have mentioned embrittlement, I'll mention leakage...

              Vic.

              [1] I've just done a quick calculation using an online Van der Waal's calculator. I used a 20l cylinder blown to 350bar at 300K, which gave me 204mol H2. That much gas at 1bar gives 5100l, rather than the 7000l one might naively expect...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ero emissions?

            Does anyone remember the Ford Pinto and its exciting new exploding gas tank?

            What do this Rasa and the Pinto have in common? Could it be fuel tanks located in the trunk area of the vehicle? Hydrogen also causes embrittlement of various metals making that "tank" anything but safe in a reaer end collision.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: zero emissions?

      Have a curry just before you set off?

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: zero emissions?

        Have a curry just before you set off?

        No, that's for the methane version which won't be introduced until 2018.

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: ero emissions?

      > And exactly how are they generating the hydrogen, transporting it, storing it etc. with 'zero emissions'?

      They claim "c.40gCO2/km Well-to-Wheel – even if the hydrogen comes from natural gas"

      > Also, how is the hydrogen stored in the car?

      There's a helpful arrow on the diagram. :-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had one of those

    It came free in a box of cereal. Oh! You mean that's a real car!

    Lets hope they spend some money on the design rather than use the drawings someone's 5year old produced when asked to design the car of the future - back in 1950...

  3. lordbigsack

    same as a family hatchback my a****

    hmm, so same cost as a family hatchback but with no back seat!! what a great family car that will be

  4. Wupspups
    WTF?

    Company wordsmith?

    WTF? Seriously WTF?

    And as for it looks like a "superstar's car" I think I may have a different idea of what that may look like.

    So where does the hydrogen come from? Magic? It will not eliminate pollution from personal transport so long as we are dependant on coal or hydrocarbon fired power stations.

    1. SteveK

      Re: Company wordsmith?

      And as for it looks like a "superstar's car" I think I may have a different idea of what that may look like.

      I'm not sure there - a lot of superstars would rush out to buy one based on the environmental stuff regardless of what it looks like - look how many Hollywood types were reported as having rushed to buy a Prius when they launched.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Company wordsmith?

        It looks very much like a superstar's car to me.

        Unfortunately the one that it brings to mind is Homer Simpson and his self-designed car, The Homer...

        D'oh!

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Company wordsmith?

      looks like a "superstar's car"

      Unfortunately, the superstar in this case is Virgil Tracey.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    frak me

    has it got uglier?

    Crank up those Nu-clear plants I'm the one with £1000 hole in my bank account where the Tesla model 3 deposit used to be.

    Don't get me wrong - I suspect hydrogen is actually a better long term solution - but frak me have they got a long way to go on this evidence. At least the Toyata Mirai looks like an Alpha if you kinda squint.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: frak me

      " I suspect hydrogen is actually a better long term solution "

      Hydrogen plus nuclear plus a few spare carbon atoms makes for a transportable energy storage system which would work well in vehicles.

      If you have the abundant nuclear energy to make hydrogen fuel then you have enough energy to turn it into (at least) propane/butane/octane to make it safer for such operations.

      Of course it'd be ironic if future nuke plants were making methane for the gas reticulation system instead of electricity.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: frak me

      Exactly. Are they designing a new car or are they designing a new power train?

      At least Tesla & Nissan appear to know the answer to this and have kept the car bit of their EVs sensibly standard.

      1. PNGuinn
        Stop

        Re: frak me @ 2+2=5

        No. Add some inflation to your handle.

        They've just cadged 2m urox from the EU and an unspecified sum from what I presume are a couple of my money spaffing quangos I've never heard of.

        Whalesong, environmentally friendly jostick vape, another round of funding please, look, we've made it super fugly, it MUST be green ...

        Trebles all round.

        Cynical? Me?

  6. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

    8.5kW is roughly what a 125cc learner motorcycle produces. Those top out at around 60mph. Unless I'm missing something or the article is, something smells here. Even with all that streamlining, acceleration is more about mass than wind resistance, certainly up to around 60mph, and I find it hard to believe this thing is only as heavy as a little Honda.

    1. captain veg

      Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

      I was thinking along the same lines, but the qoted power output is for the fuel cell alone. Presumable the acceleration figures factor in the super capacitors too.

      -A.

      1. PNGuinn
        Boffin

        Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

        Thanks Cap'n, NOW I understand.

        You've got to STOP before you can GO. Simples.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

      You missed the whole section about the fuel cell being for cruising only and the capacitors providing the thump.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

        Indeed - the capacitors are vital in providing the acceleration va-va-voom.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

          They'll probably say it's so light as it gets lift from all the hydrogen...

        2. Rhyd

          Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

          Acceleration requires capacitor charge generated by braking from a speed achieved by accelerating.

          I hope the capacitors don't discharge overnight.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

            "

            Acceleration requires capacitor charge generated by braking from a speed achieved by accelerating.

            "

            While the article doesn't say, I would imagine that the system allows for providing charge to the capacitors from the fuel cell if the capacitors are discharged and the car is below a certain speed.

          2. Alan Edwards

            Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

            > Acceleration requires capacitor charge generated by braking from a speed achieved by accelerating.

            So if you pull away from lights at the bottom of a hill, you're buggered?

            It would probably have to stop for a (overnight) breather half way up Birdlip hill.

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

        "You missed the whole section about the fuel cell being for cruising only and the capacitors providing the thump."

        Let's take a punt on the mass being around 300kg with driver. 60mph = about 27M/s, so the ke at that speed is about 150 * 272, 75kJ in round terms. 8.5kW will deliver that in around 10 seconds, though we have to allow for energy loss in the electronics, the motors, and rolling resistance. So I guess everybody else is right and I am wrong, the numbers do just about add up if you add in the supercapacitors. Of course, if the vehicle mass is significantly greater than my assumed 200-220kg, they won't. What started this train of thought was that my old Velo long ago had roughly the same mass as I'm guessing this thing has, and that at something over 20kW it was distinctly underpowered for modern roads.

        You can't argue with physics, so I withdraw as gracefully as my perpetual grumpiness can manage.

        1. Jos V

          Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

          From their website: "Our car is very light – the engineering prototype weighs 580 kg."

          So your assumed 200-220kg is indeed a bit on the low side, unless the production model will have a significant amount of weight loss.

          1. x 7

            Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

            "the engineering prototype weighs 580 kg"

            to put it into context, thats about the same as an original 1958/9 Mini Minor (~12 cwt) - with slide windows, minimal padding on the seats and none of the later safety features added - which pushed the weight up. 850cc engine producing 34 bhp (~25kW) and around 75mph top speed (downhill,,,,,,,with a following wind)

            This thing is going to be seriously underpowered.

            1. Vic

              Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

              This thing is going to be seriously underpowered.

              Probably.

              It does rather depend on the capacity of the supercapacitors; it looks like they're trying to produce something with a low mean power use, but with plenty of zip on tap for acceleration. So on the test-drive, you'll give it a couple of seconds of full-power, and it will seem quite nippy. But you pay for that energy expenditure later...

              Vic.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

      Now if it had a flux capacitor I might be interested but then again it's never getting to 88mph even downhill with the wind behind you. Might get there in front of a train if the weight of the train didn't crush it first.

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

        Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

        Torque?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

          "Torque?"

          Probably quite a lot from the electric driving motors

    4. paulf Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: 8.5kW and 0-60 in 10 seconds?

      If the fuel tank ruptures you're almost certain to experience 0-60 faster than the quoted 10 seconds.

      See Icon for further details ->

  7. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Boy....

    ..is that ugly.

    1. Malcolm 1

      Re: Boy....

      Yes. If you're not building a Supercar it's probably best not to try to take the styling cues from one. "Noddy's first Ferrari" springs to mind somehow.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Boy....

      Incredibly ugly and impractical, with aerodynamics that only matter past 80mph.

      This is like the adams probe 16 (which was a pocket ferrari powered by an anemic austin lump) when a more practical (and saleable) fuelcell vehicle would be more like a Kei van - something with a form factor like the Suzuki Wagon R.

      Rationale for that statement: small output, regenerative braking with supercaps (which are very limited in their energy storage), low pollution -> an ideal stop-start city transporter, not an open road cruiser.

      A final thought for that design: the hydrogen tank is _very_ exposed to a rear end collision. Not a good thing when it will be operating at ~ 40MPa

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Boy....

        the hydrogen tank is _very_ exposed to a rear end collision.

        Ah, the Pinto 2.0

  8. 0laf Silver badge

    Did they really mean for it to look like that?

    I mean TVR used to get the company dog to help out designing cars and theirs were pretty nice.

  9. theModge

    Super capacitors are a good touch

    Most energy from regenerative breaking lands up getting thrown away otherwise: batteries simply can't take the charge as fast as a vehicle under braking generates it, so horrendous proportions of the energy are lost. A combination of batteries and super capacitors is better yet: the capacitors will be full well before the vehicle finishes breaking; they can offload that slowly to a battery so as to have room for the next time the vehicle breaks (say vehicle goes 60mph -> 40, coast, 40-20, coast, 20->0. obviously if you accelerate hard in between the advantage is negated.) Exactly this fuel cell \ capacitor \ battery malarkey is used in a random research project from Birmingham uni: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/alumni/news/items/2012/10/Oct-University-builds-the-countrys-first-hydrogen-powered-train.aspx

    Don't get me wrong, a car with a top speed of 60 and no luggage space is as much use to me as an umbrella on a submarine, but still I like the idea.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

      @theModge

      I think you need to understand the difference between breaks and brakes - although transposing the one for the other does lead to some interesting sentences :)

      1. theModge

        Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

        I know what I *mean*. Just not what I actually said, obviously.

        Just when I thought I'd mastered lose\loose I find a whole new area to fuck up....

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

          "You missed the whole section about the fuel cell being for cruising only and the capacitors providing the thump."

          You are the first person to confuse breaks/brakes I have ever known to react graciously to having it pointed out, so please have an upvote. I regret I only have one to give you.

    2. PNGuinn
      Joke

      Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

      "these super-capacitors can take a huge charge very quickly, but they don’t store a lot of energy."

      So, no good down all those Welsh hills then!

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

      "as much use to me as an umbrella on a submarine,"

      Every film or TV show involving a submarine that I've ever seen, the first signs of trouble and there's pipes spraying water everywhere until someone gets the big spanner out and tightens the valve. An umbrella would be very useful in those situations.

      The car is fugly thought!

      A-woo-gah! A-woo-gah...DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!------>

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Super capacitors are a good touch

      "batteries simply can't take the charge as fast as a vehicle under braking generates it, so horrendous proportions of the energy are lost."

      Supercaps are a logical choice, but they have low energy density, which is why they're not used in most hybrids/EVs.

      Having enough supercap Joule capacity to handle converting the kinetic energy of a 1 tonne vehicle at 60km/h back to electrical potential when halting the thing translates to something around the 100-120kg mark (and supercaps are NOT high current devices, so other issues come into play too)

      I'm aware of one hybrid design (a passenger bus) which dumped energy from the regenerative brakes into the cooling system, only storing about 1% of the regenerated energy. It saved on brake wear but caused overheating issues in summer. (FWIW, trains tend to do this too - regeneration energy is usually dumped into resistor packs on the roof instead of putting it back into the grid as doing so results in unpredictable loads which are nearly impossible to regulate without extremely complex and expensive control systems - but it saves mechanical wear on the brakes.)

  10. Locky Silver badge

    Invited to name the car?

    Do these people never learn. Prepare for 1000's of Car-y McCarface's to be in a tailback near your soon

    1. Professur

      Re: Invited to name the car?

      I'm thinking Hindenburg might be pretty common too.

    2. PNGuinn
      Coat

      Re: Invited to name the car?

      Pram-y McPramface.

      At least the first bit sounds Welsh.

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: Invited to name the car?

      Considering its rather anemic power (Yes, even with the super capacitor boost), lack of luggage space, or even room for more than driver plus one passenger, and then throwing its looks into the mix, >breath< and the obvious headache of being limited in travel to the proximity of the (for probably quite some time into the future) rare hydrogen refueling points >breath<, just name it after what its owners will be calling it; The Wapos! (What a piece of Shit!)

    4. Kurt Meyer
      Mushroom

      Re: Invited to name the car?

      Given the car's potential for front page headline news, may I suggest "The Hydrogen Bomb".

  11. m0rt Silver badge

    For some reason, I am reminded of Hesketh...

    Not for good reasons, either.

  12. Matthew 17

    I like the idea of fuelcel powered vehicles

    Quick refuel, fewer batteries to lug about and recycle. No urban pollution, and if the hydrogen comes from zero carbon sources like nuclear and is transported via fuelcell powered vehicles to the pumps then you could argue the whole thing was carbon free.

    However, why is there the need to make electric cars or those with an alternative drivetrain look so daft.

    Just give me a Mondeo or BMW looking car and whack in a fuelcell. Someone on the Internet recently converted a Corvette to all electric and it still would do north of 150MPH as before.

    But regardless, make a practical product that is of benefit to your average person and they'll buy one over the normal petrol or diesel vehicles. Doesn't need any gimmicks or daft styling.

  13. Justicesays
    FAIL

    Like to see the first time that car meets a speed bump

    That rear wheel looks especially badly designed for any practical purpose.

    1. PNGuinn
      Thumb Up

      Re: I like the idea of fuelcel powered vehicles

      Call me when they manage to design a fuel cell that'll work reliably on petrol.

      That'd give superb range, easy refueling, and vastly improved efficiency over an internal combustion engine. And far lower transmission losses.

      And it would not need to be such high octane - no need for the added carcinogens since the greenies deprecated lead.

      TVO anyone?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I like the idea of fuelcel powered vehicles

      "However, why is there the need to make electric cars or those with an alternative drivetrain look so daft."

      It's almost as if their inspiration is from the entrants to the Solar Car Challenge which El Reg helpfully covers for us each year.

    3. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: I like the idea of fuelcel powered vehicles

      "need to make electric cars or those with an alternative drivetrain look so daft."

      This one needs to look daft to be tiny, light weight, and aerodynamic so they can claim some hair vested green types might actually find it practical while powered from an 8.5kW fuel cell.

      It needs to use an 8.5kW fuel cell because that and the hydrogen storage tank is already in volume production for use in fork lift trucks which makes it cheap.

      As best I can tell the company has been entirely funded by idiot politicians and bureaucrats pissing away taxpayers money. I doubt they will find many (any?) investors prepared to piss away their own money.

  14. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Meh

    With a nod to Nissan...

    that is one FUGLY car....

  15. Alister Silver badge

    Deja Vu

    Can you tell me what the difference is between this article, and this one.

    Apart from some slight changes to the wording, it doesn't really offer anything new?

    Click bait?

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: what the difference is between this article, and this one

      I didn't read this one.

  16. x 7

    " 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, a top speed of 60 mph (96kmph) "

    "top speed" of 60mph is giong to equate to a cruising speed of 45-50mph - maybe less uphill

    take that on a motorway and you may as well be signing your own suicide note.

    1. PNGuinn
      Trollface

      "top speed" of 60mph is giong to equate to a cruising speed of 45-50mph - maybe less uphill

      Hmmm. Went to visit my daughter in Huddersfield at the weekend.

      Assuming a nice diesel powered tanker and a long hose behind it could have been ok on the A1 / A1M. It might just have struggled as far as Barnsley. From Barnsley to Huddersfield via the Penistone road??

      Would these capacitor thingies work in reverse?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "take that on a motorway and you may as well be signing your own suicide note."

      It'd probably handle a steady 56mph quite nicely, same as all the lorries on the motorway, so not really a huge problem. In fact, sitting behind a lorry at a normal distance will even help on the fuel economy.

      What a lot of people seem to forget is that the various alternative propulsion and fuels tech is still in it's relative infancy and the early adopters are most likely to be those most wanting to "save the planet", not the petrol heads with lead feet. Those people will already be driving the most economic IC engined cars they can find and doing so in eco mode to get the best mpg they are capable of.

      Tesla are beginning to break that early adopter stage and aiming for a more mass market but that comes at a relatively high start-up cost for the consumer.

      1. x 7

        "It'd probably handle a steady 56mph quite nicely, same as all the lorries on the motorway, so not really a huge problem"

        I doubt that it would, but the problem is the speed limit on a motorway for goods vehicles over 7.5T is 60, while for those under 7.5T its 70. Most trucks are easily capable of those speeds, so that little car, struggling to top out at 60 is nothing more than a moving target for the trucks.

        Think of it as the modern equivalent of a Reliant Robin - only a mad bastard or a suicide would drive one of those on a motorway. This car is the same.

        And before anyone starts arguing over speed limits, here they are in black and white

        https://www.gov.uk/speed-limits

        Contrary to common belief there is NO "56 mph" limit for trucks on UK roads

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Contrary to common belief there is NO "56 mph" limit for trucks on UK roads

          Correct, however most - are fitted with governors to restrict them to 56mph, or in some case 52mph. I think this is done for mostly economic reasons. You can read the placards on the back of many of these lorries stating that they have governors.

  17. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

    Trying too hard

    What is going on here is that the consequences of trying to be too Green.

    Hydrogen is apparently the ultimate Green fuel, but apart from being ultra low emission it has a very long list of major disadvantages. For a start, it is not energy dense, so you need to carry a lot of it and refuel frequently. It is difficult to store, so there are few hydrogen fuel stations out there, reducing the vehicle's utility still further. Hydrogen also explodes very readily, burns with a flame invisible to human eyes and isn't all that easy to make.

    If the car makers had only tried a little less hard on the environmental front, then all manner of exciting things are possible. Ammonia is another, better candidate for a zero-carbon fuel. It can be made fairly easily, especially if you have access to electricity from a nuclear reactor, and can be contained in the same sort of technology as LPG is stored in. It can be burned in fairly conventional engines, in gas turbines and (with recently-developed catalytic systems) in conventional fuel cells.

    Similarly LPG or methane are also good candidates for Green energy, as is pure ethanol. Once again, these sorts of fuels can be easily made, stored and used with conventional technology and systems, and don't require an absurd new car design to use them in.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Trying too hard

      "For a start, it is not energy dense, so you need to carry a lot of it and refuel frequently."

      Rather like the huge and heavy 1950's/60's US gas guzzlers that were lucky to get 25mpg then?

      I can't disagree with the rest of your post though :-)

  18. Flatpackhamster

    Where's the boot?

    Where do you put your stuff? Even two people need to carry things. Briefcases. Laptop bags.

  19. fishman

    First gen Insight

    Looks a little like the first generation Honda Insight.

    Now if you replace the fuel cell and related equipment with a 250 cc motorcycle engine you could get similar fuel economy and a much lower price. And actual places to refuel.

  20. Yugguy
    FAIL

    That's actually an old Citroen DS

    And I claim my five pounds.

  21. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

    Fancy a piece of the Riversimple Rasa?

    No thanks.

  22. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Apart from being completely impractical for the vast majority of journeys (you can't even use it to go to the local supermarket because there's nowhere to put the shopping), where do you go to refuel?

  23. laurence brothers
    FAIL

    Distribution network problems

    Right. Problems with hydrogen storage in a vehicle have already been pointed out above. Then there's the fuel production and distribution network required for the stuff throughout the country. It's low-energy compared to hydrocarbons, but high-energy-cost to produce. With range comparable to existing hydrocarbon fuels you will need hydrogen fueling stations to be almost as common as current service stations. Who is going to pay for all this?

    With electric vehicles the distribution network comes for free because all towns and cities are already wired. With hydrogen vehicles, someone has to pay the billions and billions in infrastructure and capital investment in all these stations and pipelines along with whatever the cost is to keep liquid hydrogen secure in tanks indefinitely. I don't know what that cost is, but I'm pretty sure it's a lot pricier than keeping hydrocarbon fuel liquid at STP.

    IMO there is zero chance of these vehicles ever being deployed except as curiosities.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Distribution network problems

      With electric vehicles the distribution network comes for free because all towns and cities are already wired.

      This depends on how you look at it. If you consider hydrogen as an energy store like a battery then the distribution for the hydrogen is also already in place, because it is electricity + water. You produce the hydrogen at the filling station using the electricity and water supply. You are effectively converting the electricity to hydrogen, or converting the electricity to a battery store.

      Then it comes down to whether the hydrogen or the battery is the best at storing and extracting the energy for a vehicle.

    2. Colin Millar

      Re: Distribution network problems

      It only comes "for free" because of the very low use of these things. If battery cars ever get to a real market share that distribution network (and generating capacity) is going to need some serious money being spent on it. Ditto for hydrogen production which would have to be localised - again requiring serious reinforcement of the network.

      1. laurence brothers

        Re: Distribution network problems

        This is a good point re increased EV utilization of local power. If your home garage only supplies 50 amps and you need 400 for a charger you can't realistically own an EV until you or your development invests in expensive new wiring and breakers, and similar concerns apply to other possible charging locations.

        But at least the big regional power lines are all in place, and so local charging stations require only a relatively little work to put in place new feeders. Hydrogen storage and local service-station generation from H20 (surely this will be very expensive and inefficient?) is IMO much more fraught with economic problems and safety considerations.

  24. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Why do they always "design" those to look like they are from a low budget science fiction film? And nearly always with gullwing doors, too.

    It's a car! They have been around for quite a while now, and there are certain design features that have proved themselves to be useful. 4 wheels. Doors and seats fit for an average sized human being. A boot. And so on. The key word is usabilty here.

    And on this one the steering wheel is still on the wrong side.

    Although, in this particular case, if I had that kind of money, I'd offer them 150k and a very unusual name...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "And nearly always with gullwing doors, too."

      And there you hit the nail directly on the head. Here in the UK, in most car parks, once you get parked you will be stuck in the car. The parking bays are simply not wide enough to open those doors. You can't open a normal car door fully in those bays and with a gullwing door you can't open it a "bit" and slide out. You *have* to open it fully and if those pics are anything to go by, it ain't gonna happen.

      And another thought just struck me. Those doors seem to go awfully high up when opened. I've been in some multi-story car parks where those doors may well hit the ceiling.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        That's just not in the UK either. It applies here in the States as well. Even the "normal" garage at a home would be hard-pressed to manage gull-wing doors.

        OTOH, gull wings are cool. Especially if you remember the Mercedes-Benz racing cars from the mid-50's. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_300_SL

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        You need to look at the video of the Tesla gull wing doors operating again.

        They are double-jointed so they can move up vertically without increasing the width as much as a conventional door does, and they have sensors so they are designed to stop before they touch anything. They just fold out of the way like an electric roof on a convertible.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "You need to look at the video of the Tesla gull wing doors operating again."

          Yes, but Tesla doesn't see cost as so much of an obstacle because that car is aimed at the higher end of the market so extra engineering complexity just adds a bit to the end-user price. In the UK, end-user price is *everything* and this car is aimed at the mass market. We just *know* that they won't be over engineering the doors with clever two stage hinges or proximity sensors. They'll just add a rubber "bumper" strip to mitigate scratches and say "you parked it wrong".

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Gullwings

        "The parking bays are simply not wide enough to open those doors."

        Properly designed gullwing doors can fully open with only 4 or 5 inches available beside the car. I'd like to see you get a conventional door open enough to get out in such a case.

        On the other hand, as Tesla and deLorean both discovered, gullwings are _heavy_ - which is not something you want on an ecowarrior-mobile.

        1. Down not across Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Gullwings

          On the other hand, as Tesla and deLorean both discovered, gullwings are _heavy_ - which is not something you want on an ecowarrior-mobile.

          That's why you want an old Bricklin SV-1 with powered doors.

  25. Shane Sturrock

    Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

    Since I got an EV (Nissan LEAF) and solar, I have totally got used to making my own fuel. I'm not about to go back to buying fuel just for increased range when I so rarely go near the limits of my current car and if I was to want to go further than that, there are plenty of charging stations around at regular intervals or the nice people down at Avis or wherever who will lend me a petrol car in return for some money.

    Hydrogen is just another scheme by the fuel companies to keep us paying them to run our cars. Don't be taken in. Get a pure EV and either charge from the mains (you'll barely notice the increased power bill) or go the whole hog, get solar and charge for free.

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

      So you take taxpayer's money for the subsidised electric car and then charge it with solar panels subsidised by the taxpayer. And you think hydrogen is an evil scam by big business to fleece the little guy.

    2. Kaltern

      Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

      What a very odd argument.

      Fossil fuel needs to go. Like, go. It's as old as the industrial age, and we're way past that. Oil companies don't like alternative power. It's a direct challenge to their obscene profits.

      Hydrogen fuel is 100% the future of power. It's been proven to work. Drones are now using hydrogen fuel cells to get around for longer. They produce no pollutants as emissions.

      It doesn't matter how difficult it is to produce or store, oil isn't exactly always easy to get at, but oil companies have no problem grinding up more bits of the crust to get to it. Solar power / mains power is still created by fossil fuel at it's source, apart from nuclear, which has problems of it's own.

      Why people think that faster is better I'll never understand. The combustion engine is really past it's day and needs to go the same way as the waterwheel and steam engine.

      Petrol heads are as arrogant and stubborn about their V8's as the NRA are about... well you know.

      1. x 7

        Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

        "Hydrogen fuel is 100% the future of power."

        so just how do you propose to generate the hydrogen without using energy?

        You can't use fossil fuel

        You can't use nuclear fuel

        Wind power doesn't have the capacity, and never will have - nor the constancy of supply

        Nor does tidal power

        Solar energy is totally inefficient in the sense of resources used to manufacture the panels

        Biofuels are unsustainable as they increase deforestation, remove farmland from food production, and create extreme food price increases

        what does that leave? Mining interstellar gaseous hydrogen?

        or maybe we should just lop a few billion off the worlds population? Thats the only survivable option on a global basis

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

          I don't know what the future of automotive power might be. But hydrogen as a portable energy source is in the running - it's no more daft in principle than carting huge battery packs around in your car.

          Of course you need to use energy to produce your hydrogen. The important thing is that whatever method you use needs to be - in the long run - something that doesn't result in net carbon emissions. Currently, that's not practical since building anything currently results in net carbon emissions unless you stick to wood (or suchlike) as your building material and make sure you re-plant trees (etc) to offset the carbon used to make your tools (etc).

          But let the engineers loose on the problem and give them enough time and money: they'll come up with something.

          However, why not wind power? I don't know about capacity, but if you're generating hydrogen for use in road vehicles, you don't need constancy of supply: if the wind turbines are producing electricity, you produce hydrogen. If they're not, you wait until they are. If you've got plenty of wind farms spread out over the planet, you'll always be producing hydrogen somewhere.

          Using biological processes to generate hydrogen from sunlight might yet turn out to be sensible, with a bit of genetic and other sorts of engineering. Imagine, if you will, a hydrogen plant in sun-blasted wilderness areas of (say) the Middle East or North Africa, a wide area of (say) glass tubes filled with water, nutrients, and efficient hydrogen-producing GM organisms of some sort. In a carefully controlled closed system, it should be possible to recycle almost all the nutrients and water.

          No farmland's removed from production, no forests are destroyed, no food prices go up, and hydrogen gets produced efficiently and with negligible pollution in this SF future utopia of my imagination - how about it?

          I've read that Carl Sagan suggested that in the long run, here on Earth, we need to get all our energy supply from the sun's rays currently hitting the planet - because any other solution would (in the long run in his view) inevitably result in us overheating the planet (I think his thinking was based around the observation that we humans have this tendency to just use more and more and more unless something stops us - in which case, Sagan's right). Thing is, there really is plenty of sun power available to supply all the energy we're using now and then some by some orders of magnitude. We just need to be more intelligent about how we gather and use energy - no need to reduce population or standards of living, definite need to be less stupid.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

            "is", "are", "doesn't" etc.

            All present tense words.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

            "you don't need constancy of supply: "

            Yes, you do.

            when you're running industrial-scale production systems to make hydrogen (haber process can be done without using methane) then the last thing you want is an unstable energy source.

            The correct source for this kind of manufacturing is nuclear MSR - extremely hot and very stable - which is why I made the comment about nuke plants producing methane for the gas reticulation system (the irony being that you're using heat to make chemicals to make heat with less overall efficiency than using heat to make electricity to make heat)

        2. Dagg

          Re: Give it up, I'm not buying fuel any more

          Try hydro, geothermal...

          Also solar is no longer inefficient, with wind, solar and tidal you actually don't need constancy of supply, you need consistency of generation as you basically make hay while the sun shines (or wind blows) and store the hydrogen.

          As long as you are able to generate X MW and use it to produce n tons of hydrogen a week then no problem.

      2. Colin Millar

        @ Kaltern

        "Solar power ..... is still created by fossil fuel at it's source"

        They got fossils on the sun?

  26. x 7

    Scam

    " "a €2m EU grant and six figure investment from Innovate UK and OLEV (the Office for Low Emission Vehicles)", and Riversimple has opened its door to investors, seeking to match that funding by selling company equity to the private sector."

    Yet another magic car scam being foistered on the taxpayer and public

    Think De Lorean, think Africar. New disruptive technologies that were supposed to revolutionise marketing, but instead created accounting black holes.

    This car need massive investment. But the product isn't viable.

    1. Snafu1

      Re: Scam

      DeLorean was a scam artist in the way he transferred funds; nothing to do with the engineering concept (which was also drastically flawed, but unconnected to the above)

      Hand-worked stainless steel panels for bodywork?? Good concept; appalling in RL :(

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Scam

      Yet another magic car scam being foistered on the taxpayer and public

      What no-one seems to have pointed out, neither to this article nor to the previous one (nor indeed to the politicians involved in helping) is that this company has been pushing this car for quite some time. As for being "Wales-based", they are probably only here because they managed to get some kind of grant to move from Ludlow, where they were just as enthusiastic about the project seven years ago, then again six years ago, then announcing their first order, which was probably cancelled because soon afterwards they announced a trial.

      The move to Wales happened almost a year ago, oiled with a £3.5m grant.

      A mate of mine works for a company that designs and builds the sort of in-wheel motors this car is said to use. The motors bring almost as many problems (unsprung mass) as they solve (fewer transmission components) and he wasn't actually aware of Riversimple when I asked him about the project back in February.

      Don't get me wrong; I think fuel-cells are a great idea, and the thing about marrying them to supercapacitors seems to solve the fixed-power-output problem, but other - more established manufacturers are already looking at the technology, with much pore practical and pretty designs. James May drove one, as did Vicki Butlet-Henderson.

      If you want something really weird from Wales, how about the Mouse Car which once achieved over 500mpg from a Diesel engine. It's on show at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

      M.

  27. Captain DaFt

    Re-read the article and found this gem I'd missed:

    "Carmakers typically only capture around 40 per cent of the lifetime revenues from a car, so this business model makes a lot of sense."

    Translation: "How dare, HOW DARE those thieving car owners keep driving a car after they've paid for it? Well, we'll fix that!"

  28. herman Silver badge

    Carbon

    So, why not simply combine the hydrogen with carbon in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor and then distribute the resulting liquid through the conventional channels?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Carbon

      I think the will is not to continue burning hydrocarbons because of the CO2.

    2. Justicesays

      Re: Carbon

      Where are you getting the carbon from?

      For a "carbon neutral" process, you would have to use atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is at a concentration of 0.04 percent.

      Mass of CO2 is 1.977 kg/m3 , so there are ~ 0.0007908 kg/m3 of CO2 in normal air

      In that CO2, carbon represents 1/5th of the mass,

      So that's 0.00015815 kg carbon / m3 of air.

      Methanol is the simplest hydrocarbon that is liquid, Its molecular mass is 4+12+16=32 , of which 12 is Carbon, so 3/8s carbon. So you can make 0.0004217 kg of methanol per m3 of air.

      ~3 kg's of Methanol make a gallon, so if you extract the CO2 from 7114 m3 of air you can make 1 gallon of methanol (and a bunch of oxygen). That's 9 tons of air you have to process somehow, per gallon.

      In the past , the only cost efficient way to process that much air has been self replicating carbon dioxide processing systems. Otherwise known as trees and plants.

      1. Justicesays

        Re: Carbon

        One more thing to note is that Methanol is 1/2 the energy of petrol (by volume) , or 1/6 of the energy (by mass) of hydrogen.

        1. Alfie Noakes

          Re: Carbon

          @Justicesays

          But are you comparing the energy density of methanol to hydrogen at room temperature and pressure?

          1. Justicesays

            Re: Carbon

            Comparing it by mass, so density and pressure are irrelevant, except insomuch as you'll need some hefty ironmongery to put your hydrogen in which will tend to make it less efficient mass wise...

  29. dvhamme

    Genius business model: charge a reasonable price for lifetime usage. Because when the car fails, you don't need to replace it; most likely it was the hydrogen tank that went, and the driver is out of the picture anyway! So whether it explodes or keeps running, the house wins.

  30. TeeCee Gold badge

    Investors beware!

    ....these super-capacitors can take a huge charge very quickly, but they don’t store a lot of energy.

    And when, very soon now, someone gets the first bit of that married to batteries' storage capacity, everything Hydrogen powered will be made obsolete overnight.

    I'm afraid that anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that the "Hydrogen economy" is a massive blind alley. All Hydrogen does is serve as a seriously bloody inefficient[1] way of storing electricity and moving it from A to B.

    [1] Regardless of how efficient your electrolysis process and fuel cells are, the act of moving the Hydrogen from where it's produced to where it's needed is pure unnecessary overhead.

  31. Yugguy

    And why is it so slow?

    I thought hydrogen was kind of pretty explosive stuff.

    It's simple - ring deserted coastlines with wave power generators to crack the seawater, install a country-wide pipe network to get the hydrogen to where it's needed - we could, if we had the will and the cooperation and a national drive, do this in a relatively short time. But instead we have terrorism and nimbyism and greed and profit and all the other human ills which mean it'll be decades, if ever, that such a thing could happen.

    1. Lotaresco
      Boffin

      Re: And why is it so slow?

      "It's simple - ring deserted coastlines with wave power generators to crack the seawater"

      Could I take a reasonable guess that you didn't study chemistry at school? Electrolysis of brine does indeed produce hydrogen. It also produces other things. At the cathode you get hydrogen gas, at the anode you get chlorine gas, in the residual brine you get sodium hydroxide. Disposal of the chlorine and sodium hydroxide is problematical. In the not-so-distant past the headwaters of the river Mersey were dead. This was because the cotton bleaching factories used sodium hydroxide to clean the cotton before bleaching and chlorine to bleach the cotton. The waste was piped into the Mersey and its tributaries. This killed most of the life in the river for a considerable distance - from Stockport to the sea. The factories used only a small fraction of the sodium hydroxide and chlorine that would have to be dumped from producing sufficient hydrogen to power cars.

  32. x 7

    Spectrum MSV

    the only gullwing design I've seen that worked was on the Spectrum Maximum Security Vehicle - see

    http://www.spectrum-headquarters.com/msv_blueprint.html

    You'll also note that its one of the earliest hybrid vehicles, with electric transmission, backup battery power - and solar charging

    Gerry Anderson got there first - again!

  33. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Windy backside?

    I wonder if they have tested what happens if you get a 60+mph gust of wind from behind while parked?

    It looks very aerodynamic from the front, but parked somewhere on a windy day, that back end looks like it might not be ideal if a strong gust gets underneath. I'm assuming they've aimed for as low a mass as possible to allow the fuel cell to be able to drive it and get good mpg equivalent.

  34. Chris Cartledge
    Pint

    Ugly

    Ugly, indeed. I'll wait for a better looking version before I replace my gas guzzling Smart Roadster.

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