Can This Hydrogen-Powered Car Compete with Tesla?

Written By Luke Burgess

Posted June 1, 2018

Automakers around the world are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the next generation of battery electric vehicles and keep up with the clean car revolution.

But one UK-based company hopes it can break into the market to compete with the big boys like Tesla with its newly developed hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle.

Meet the Rasa…

Right off the bat, you might want to be critical of the car’s design. The thing kind of looks like a tadpole to me. Or something George Jetson’s grandfather would have driven. But design aside, it’s what’s under the body of the Rasa that really sets this car apart.

The Rasa is produced by an independent automaker in Wales called Riversimple. It’s the brainchild of former F1 driver, car designer, and daredevil Hugo Spowers. (Interesting side note: Mr. Spowers was part of a club while at Oxford University in the 1970s that developed modern bungee jumping. He was among the first to do it.)

For the past 16 years, Spowers has been developing technologies for hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, as well as an alternative way to sell the vehicles. Now, he’s introduced the market to the Rasa.

The Rasa, which comes from the Latin “tabula rasa” meaning “clean slate,” is touted as being the most energy-efficient road car on the planet. It runs on 1.5 kilograms of hydrogen and can go 300 miles before being refilled. That’s about the equivalent of 250 mpg.

By comparison, Tesla’s Model S can travel 335 miles on a single charge. But Riversimple claims the hydrogen-powered Rasa is more energy-efficient over the long term.

OK, the scissor doors are kind of cool.

There are only a handful of companies now producing hydrogen fuel cell cars. The most well known is perhaps Toyota’s Mirai. But the Rasa stands out among the few that are produced. And it’s not just because of the car’s design. The Rasa’s engineering is quite different from any other hydrogen fuel cell vehicle ever made.

One engineering difference: The Rasa has a motor on every wheel. These motors provide braking for the car and generate electricity, which is stored for later use.

In fact, the Rasa generates 80% of its power from braking. The vehicle’s fuel cell only needs to provide 20% of the power for acceleration. This is compared to a traditional combustion engine, which provides 100% of the power for acceleration.

Riversimple believes the Rasa can compete with other hydrogen fuel cell cars, such as the Toyota Mirai, as well as Tesla’s brand of battery electric vehicles and other major automakers. And it hopes the company’s business model will help.

Riversimple doesn’t plan to sell any of its cars. Instead, the company will allow people to lease the Rasa on a monthly basis. That leasing fee will include hydrogen refills, insurance, and all associated costs for the car. Monthly leasing cuts down on commitment and costs. Riversimple hopes this will spur business.

The company is currently only manufacturing a handful of vehicles and will begin beta testing with the public later this year. But Riversimple hopes to significantly ramp up production by 2020.

Interestingly, Riversimple will make all of its technology open source. That means other automakers could theoretically copy its designs without a fee. However, Riversimple’s founder says this doesn’t matter because the clean car market is big enough.

Will Riversimple’s hydrogen-powered Rasa be able to compete with the big boys? Only time will tell. But it’s likely that larger automakers like Tesla and others will be closely monitoring the success (or failure) of new hydrogen fuel cell technologies being developed by independent carmakers like Riversimple to guide their own future plans. We should keep an eye on them, too.

Until next time,
Luke Burgess Signature
Luke Burgess

As an editor at Energy and Capital, Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Luke is also a contributing editor of Angel Publishing’s Bull and Bust Report newsletter. There, he helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.

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