The dawn of a new green motoring age?

If you don't think Riversimple's tadpole-shaped electric car can change the world, think again.


Innovative start-up carmaker Riversimple is recruiting 100 drivers to test its hydrogen-powered electric car in the first trial of its kind in the UK. What the drivers report back will influence the final design and the service Riversimple is set to offer, which will make its cars available on a subscription basis, similar to a mobile-phone contract. The testing will take place in Monmouthshire and a hydrogen refuelling point will be placed in one of the main car parks in Abergavenny. The testing comes on the back of a successful £1m crowd-sourced fund-raising earlier in the year.

These zero-emissions cars will offer all the joys you expect from driving, says Riversimple's director Fiona Spowers, "with none of the hassle of ownership, depreciation, dirty taxes and servicing extras". The firm's aim is to produce a green car that is "available to the many, not just the well-off".

You might laugh and think this tadpole-shaped prototype is way too alternative to change the world. But I'm not so sure, says Paul Horrell on The car is novel and sophisticated in engineering terms: a fuel cell provides electrical energy, emitting only water from the exhaust. The energy is stored in ultra-capacitors, and four wheel motors drive the car. A carbon body keeps the weight down, and the honed design cuts drag.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

The car is not only potentially very green, but clever in its business logic too. Riversimple's founder Hugo Spowers reckons that he is on the road to producing a five-seat hatchback that would cost around the same as owning a Golf with comparable acceleration and tank range but none of the emissions. "He's talking a revolution. But there's something tantalisingly close about it."

The design of the firm's first Rasa model is striking and the green technology works amazingly well, says Chris Evans in The Mail on Sunday. The car has a range of 300 miles, from a 1.5kg tank of compressed hydrogen, and reaches its comfortable cruising speed of 60mph in ten seconds. "I loved this car and everything it stands for."

After the trial in Wales, a full production run of 3,500 vehicles is planned for 2018. Final costs have not been confirmed but Riversimple says prices will be "reasonable". See for more details on how to sign up as a potential customer or investor, or to take part in trials.

Stuart Watkins

Stuart graduated from the University of Leeds with an honours degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and from Bath Spa University College with a postgraduate diploma in creative writing. 

He started his career in journalism working on newspapers and magazines for the medical profession before joining MoneyWeek shortly after its first issue appeared in November 2000. He has worked for the magazine ever since, and is now the comment editor. 

He has long had an interest in political economy and philosophy and writes occasional think pieces on this theme for the magazine, as well as a weekly round up of the best blogs in finance. 

His work has appeared in The Lancet and The Idler and in numerous other small-press and online publications.