Open Source Mobility: Riversimple’s Network Hydrogen-Car

UK company Riversimple has been working for eight years on a car with a difference. It is a small car that can run on a 6 kw hydrogen fuel cell, assisted in acceleration by recovered brake energy stored in a bank of ultracapacitors.

The cars will not be sold but leased. They will be manufactured in small facilities and most importantly, the designs for the car will be released on an open source license.

See the video on YouTube at


And here are some excerpts from an article in The Ecologist…

The open-source hydrogen car set to change the industry

Riversimple’s network electric car is a hydrogen fuel cell powered car, with unique technologies that enable it to run on a 6kW fuel cell, with a fuel consumption equivalent to 300 miles per gallon and greenhouse gas emissions at 30g per km, well-to-wheel – less than a third of that from the most efficient petrol-engine cars currently available.

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The first departure from the conventional business plan is that the designs of the car will be released under an open source licence.

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To aid the development of the open source hardware community, Riversimple has set up the 40 Fires Foundation, an open-source hardware group that anyone can join to share expertise and develop technologies.

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Complementing the open source philosophy, the manufacturing requirements of the car mean that the size of production plant will be greatly scaled down.

The low component count of the cars and their carbon composite bodies, means that smaller plants will be needed. Riversimple expect one plant to manufacture around 5,000 cars a year, unlike the production of the conventional pressed steel bodies, where a factory will spit out about 300,000 a year of the same model – necessary for the economies of scale.

‘When you are doing it at that scale,’ says Spowers, ‘the breakeven volume at which a model becomes commercially viable is 100 times lower. So you can genuinely build cars that suit people’s needs, rather than the opposite extreme which is the lunacy of the “world car”.’

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Another significant departure from the conventional business model is that the cars will be leased, not sold. The leasing will include the maintenance of the car, the fuel and the recycling of the car at the end of its life.

The idea behind leasing the cars is primarily to bring the incentive of making the cars more sustainable in their production, maintenance and use, back to the manufacturer.

‘There’s no driver for resource efficiency if we sell the car,’ says Spowers. ‘If we sell the cars… we have a direct incentive to sell as many cars as possible, so there’s absolutely no commercial sense to build in longevity, low running cost or fuel efficiency – the opposite in fact.’

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