Hugo Spowers: “I Believe in simplicity the other side of complexity”
Riversimple is a new kind of business, designed from scratch to pursue our purpose: the systematic elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport.
Our aim is mobility at zero cost to the planet.
We’ve designed a radically new car – which will be available late next year. It emits nothing but a tiny amount of wáter and will do more than the equivalent of 200 mpg.
We’re building a fundamentally new form of business system that aligns our interests with our customers’ and the environment’s. There’s no trade off between profit and purpose.
We love what we’re doing and we hope you will too. We’re actively seeking commercial partners and employees. We’re always interested to hear from likeminded pioneering people and companies.
We’re just putting the final touches to the car- and we’re excited to be coming to our first two pilot markets in the UK next year.
And if you fancy being a pioneer driver? Let’s talk later in the year.
Building a resilient, successful, sustainable business to pursue our purpose demands a new approach: to technology, to the business model, to corporate governance.
We call it “whole system design”
BREAKING NEW GROUND WITH THE CAR
We don’t believe eco-cars should be expensive. We don’t want our customers to run the risk of unknowable depreciation. Our approach makes eco mobility both affordable and knowable for everyone not just the wealthy few.
Eco cars don’t need to be ugly – our design chief Chris Reitz, designer of many beautiful cars including the Fiat 500, is crafting our car with his team in Barcelona.
Our car breaks new ground in fuel efficiency and environmental performance. It’s powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, and has been designed from scratch with lightweight but strong composite materials. It weighs less than half as much as a conventional car, is highly aerodynamic and stable. It’s no accident that many of our team have worked in Formula 1.
Our technology demonstrator achieves the equivalent of 300mpg and emits nothing more than a teaspoonful of water on long journeys.
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS GET
We’re not selling our cars outright, we’re offering mobility as a service. For a fixed monthly fee our customers will receive a car – their car – and all the fuel, insurance, maintenance to run it. One payment to cover everything – at the equivalent monthly cost of running a normal, average car.
We believe that this leasing-rather-than-buying concept could change how the world uses and values its reducing resources. It aligns our business interests with the environment’s. That is why we are adopting it right through our supply chain and are pushing for it to be adopted in other industries.
LOOKING AFTER EVERYONE’S INTERESTS – NOT JUST OURS
We think conventional business systems are no longer fit for the challenges the world faces. Successful businesses that make a positive difference need to be run in new ways. That is why our corporate structure is being designed so that all our stakeholders – investors, customers, suppliers, neighbours, staff and the environment – really do have a stake. This system will lead to long term decision making and a business that is resilient, sustainable and enduringly profitable whilst achieving our purpose.
Chris Reitz – Design Director
We are in the final development stages of our first road-going version, specifically aimed at the local market – perfect for all those everyday journeys like the daily commute.
It is being designed by Chris Reitz, former design chief for the Fiat 500, and his team at their studio in Barcelona. It is a two seater local network electric car, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and with a body made from composite materials.
We’re keeping it under wraps for the moment but watch this space.
In the meantime you can look at our original technology demonstrator vehicle, which has shown what is possible with this technology. We ‘re aiming for groundbreaking fuel efficiency of more than 200 mpg (e) with a range of 300 miles. It’s nippy – accelerating from 0-30mph in 5.5 seconds, and will cruise at 55 mph – more than enough for town and country. Have a look at how it works.
We are proud to say that one version of this vehicle is on display in the “Atmosphere” gallery of London’s Science Museum.
Refueling, at special stations built close to where our customers live, will take 3 minutes and is free of charge at the point of refueling. Late in 2015 we will have 60 of our new vehicles road tested at two locations in the UK. The process of choosing those places is already under way.
The Riversimple vehicle is conceived within an innovative new architecture for cars that we call a Network Electric platform.
It embodies various key features:
Technology demonstrator illustrated
- Four electric motors, one in each wheel
- Regeneration of electricity by these motors when the car is braking – known as regenerative braking
- Super-capacitors to store this energy and provide most of the power for acceleration
- Low powered hydrogen fuel cells (although other primary energy devices could be used) and
- A body made of lightweight composites
It’s the combination and synthesis of all these technologies that delivers the groundbreaking efficiency and range, many times better than inserting fuel cells into conventional, heavy, vehicles.
The two principles that really are new (conceived by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute) and that make this synthesis so powerful are:
1. Decoupling acceleration and cruise demands;
2. Mass decompounding
1. DECOUPLING ACCELERATION AND CRUISE DEMANDS
Decoupling acceleration and cruise power requirements means that the fuel cell needs only to be sized to meet the maximum steady demand when cruising. This is usually only about 20% of the maximum power required when accelerating.
In a conventional car, the engine provides the power for both acceleration and cruising; but as a car is only accelerating for about 5% of the time, and the power needed then is five times what it is when cruising, it means that for 95% of the time, the car is carrying around an engine and transmission that is five times larger than necessary.
In our network electric vehicle, almost all braking is done by the electric motors, capturing the energy of the car in motion, rather than using conventional brakes that just waste the energy as heat. This energy is then stored in a bank of super-capacitors. Because super-capacitors can be both charged and discharged very rapidly, they can provide 80% of the power required for acceleration. Therefore, in our cars only a fifth of the power is required from the fuel cell that would be required if it alone was replacing the engine in a conventional car, which leads to an immense reduction in its cost.
2. MASS DECOMPOUNDING
Mass decompounding is an emergent property of “whole system design”, – designing the car as a whole system – rather than attempting to squeeze a fuel cell into a car architecture that is designed for a combustion engine and then trying to persuade it to behave like one. The reduced size of the fuel cell, and elimination of a gearbox and driveshafts, results in a weight reduction. This leads directly to a lighter chassis, as this is usually designed to hold on to a heavy engine and gearbox in accidents. This in turn means less power is needed, which means lighter components, and so a lighter chassis, meaning less power and so on, and this effect is magnified by using lighter materials, composites, for the chassis as well. Furthermore, all these weight reductions lead to narrower tyres and make power assisted systems for brakes and steering redundant; this virtuous circle of mass decompounding leads directly to significant improvements in efficiency.
Hugo Spowers - Chief engineer and Founder
A NEW KIND OF BUSINESS – DESIGNED FROM SCRATCH TO DELIVER OUR PURPOSE
The more successful we are as a business, the more we eliminate environmental damage.
We don’t believe that there’s any trade off between a successful, resilient, enduringly profitable business and delivering our aim of eliminating environmental impact. Which is why we have designed our business, from scratch, through a “whole system” approach.
We think this business design could and should be applied in all the categories that underpin human life. We’d love others to copy it.
A BUSINESS MODEL DESIGNED FOR OUR PURPOSE
We’re not selling products. We’ll retain ownership and sell mobility as a service. That way customers don’t have the hassle of ownership, and it is in our interests to make a car that lasts as long as possible. Our interests, the customer’s and the planet’s are aligned.
We’ve created a simple pricing structure that enables customers to pay a single monthly fee that covers everything – the car, the maintenance, the insurance, the fuel. Nothing hidden. No small print.
Aligning interests like this applies equally to our supply chain. We’re doing all we can to adopt the “sale of service” model upstream with our suppliers, so that their interests are also aligned with ours, the customer’s and the planet’s.
We’re building a distributed manufacturing model. We don’t need massive factories to achieve our goals; instead we’ll build small, profitable operations near the markets they serve – each will produce around 5,000 cars a year.
And we’d love others to adopt our technology and our methods. We’ll be as open as we can be with our technology and our standards, with the aim of encouraging others to follow or even improve on what we’ve built. We have established an independent foundation to take this work forward; it is early days but the potential is there to be seen at www.40Fires.org. The more people who follow us the more we’ll eliminate environmental impact. And the lower we’ll bring the costs of this new technology.
LONGTERM VALUE CREATION
Fundamental to the design of the business is the alignment of interests – of the business, the customers and the planet – as well as all the other critical stakeholders.
It’s a governance system that ensures longterm decision making to create a resilient, sustainable, profitable company.
We have designed a structure of control where each stakeholder group has an equal stake. The company is answerable to six custodians who represent each of our critical stakeholders and hold the voting shares:
Customers, investors, the environment, the community, the staff and our commercial partners.
Our six Custodians appoint five members of our board of directors, and agree our strategy. This equal voting structure meansthat no single interest can dominate the company to the detriment of another. It’s the key to building a resilient, profitable business that delivers our purpose.
Nick Keppel-Palmer – Marketing Director
“To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport”
Everything we do – in the design of the car, the construction of the business, the people we work with – is in pursuit of this goal. It’s the only reason we exist.
That doesn’t mean that we’re all tub-thumping greens (at least not all the time) but it is something we take very seriously indeed. The “whole system” design approach to the business ensures that the more successful we are the closer we get to eliminating environmental impact.
MOBILITY AT ZERO COST TO THE PLANET
We want to make it possible for everyone to move freely without any cost to the planet. Our aim is to ensure the social and economic benefits of mobility without any cost to the environment.
We don’t want to stop anyone from driving. We want to replace ‘bad’ miles with ‘good’. Reducing environmental damage is not enough – what we’re after is the elimination of environmental damage.
LESS UNSUSTAINABLE IS NOT SUSTAINABLE
The design of the car, the design of the business, and the structure of the company are all part of a ‘whole system’ approach to pursue our goal.
We’ve come a long way but we’re by no means there yet. We’ll keep looking for systematic ways to eradicate the environmental impact of the car and its usage.
A SYSTEM TO BE COPIED
We don’t see what we do, how we operate, as a point of difference. We see it as a new model for a new type of business – a model that could be applied not just to mobility but to housing, food, energy, finance. We are open about our technology and how we operate in the hope that others like what they see and copy it.
Have a look at Hugo’s story to hear him talk about our purpose.
Sebastian Piech – Chairman
Riversimple has gathered together an enthusiastic and growing band of designers, engineers and business builders, a mix of full time employees and independent contractors. We come from all sorts of backgrounds – motor racing, yacht design, engineering, design – and have lived and worked all over the world: from San Fernando to Sydney, Shanghai to Shobdon. Our team works between our design studio in Barcelona, our office in Ludlow and our R&D centre in Llandrindod Wells.
Everyone at Riversimple shares a boundless curiosity, a drive to make radical change and a deep love of life.
Above all we are all focused on the “systematic elimination of environmental impact”.
We want to change the world by building a new form of business. A resilient business that is both highly profitable and resolute in achieving our purpose.
Hugo Spowers - Chief engineer and Founder
Riversimple is the brainchild of Hugo Spowers, a former motorsport engineer and racing driver.
Hugo’s early life was characterised by his twin fascination for science and dangerous sports. The former led him to an encyclopaedic understanding of systems design, the latter into the dangerous sports club and motorsport. For 15 years Hugo designed, built and drove racing cars and restored historic racing cars.
In the late 1990s his concerns about the environmental impact of the sport led him to think there had to be a better way. Inspired by the work of Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute on lightweight network electric vehicles, he set up Riversimple’s predecessor, Oscar. He brought together the LIFECar consortium with the Morgan Motor Co., BOC, Qinetiq, Cranfield University and Oxford University and funding from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. This research project produced a demonstration hydrogen fuel cell sports car.
Hugo realized that to change the way we all think about mobility wasn’t just a matter of new technology, it required a complete redesign of business. This “whole system approach” infuses the operating principles and the business structure of Riversimple. Hugo designed not just the car, but a new business model and a new governance system.
The Open Source Hydrogen Car
Marie Faichney – HR Director
Come and join us.
We’re always on the look out for talented individuals who want to help us change the world for the better.
Right now we’re busy finalizing the production car and getting ready to come to our pilot markets in the second half of next year.
Our offices are in Ludlow right now, and we’re looking to set up in the beautiful surroundings of Llandrindod Wells shortly.
Right now we are looking for the following positions. If you’re interested in any of them please email firstname.lastname@example.org
NOW BASED IN WALES
June 20, 2014
Glorious sunshine and beautiful views of Welsh hills have welcomed us to our new workshop and offices in Llandrindod Wells. We will be building our prototype vehicles on site here. Find our new address in the contact details.
SustainValue PROJECT ADDS ITS OWN VALUE
June 20, 2014
Riversimple has been involved in this successful EU funded project to develop new tools and methods for sustainable manufacturing. Nico Sergent comments that the project has proved valuable to Riversimple in the development of our governance and business model. A good read. http://phys.org/news/2014-06-methods-tools-sustainable.html
CLARITY ON REFUELLING
May 15, 2014
Thank you, Honda, for explaining the technology and showing the world how to refuel a hydrogen car. http://t.co/5L0K54q8Cu. Simple and straightforward. Our sentiments exactly.
RIVERSIMPLE AMONG THE ‘INNOVATORS CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE’
April 26, 2014
Riversimple is cited as one of pioneering companies in the Innovation Showcase launched to accompany Jonathon Porritt’s new book. An optimistic view for the future of the environment, ‘The World We Made’ is told through the words of Alex McKay, a teacher looking back from 2050 to tell the story of how we got from where we are today (in a pretty bad way, environmentally) to a much better place in 2050. Check out the showcase – http://www.theinnovationshowcase.co
RIVERSIMPLE RAISES MONEY TO CONTINUE DEVELOPMENT
March 24, 2014
Riversimple, the UK based car company, announced today that it has raised the money to continue the development of its ultra low emissions car and further its aim of having production vehicles tested on the streets next year. The “substantial” amount has come from the original backers, Bscope, the long-term direct investment arm of the Piech-Nordhoff family.
Riversimple managing director Martin Wilderer said: “This investment will enable Riversimple to carry out additional research and development on our new production car and employ the people who will help us get cars on the street. We will focus on developing the vehicle and innovative user model. Our designer Chris Reitz and his team in Barcelona are close to creating a completely new look. These are exciting times.”
Sebastian Piëch, the chairman of Bscope and Riversimple, said: “I believe the market timing is right internationally for greater diversification in personal transport. Riversimple fits with Bscope’s strategy of identifying genuine disruptive investments which will allow current and future generations to live without an expansion in resource use.”
Piech added: “Bscope is focused on investing in companies and supporting initiatives that offer truly sustainable alternative solutions to current practice.”
Riversimple’s Mark 1 Technology Demonstrator achieved an equivalent energy consumption of 200 mpg using a 6kw hydrogen fuel cell – an unprecedented degree of fuel economy. This is achieved by using lightweight materials and marrying the fuel cell to a ‘network electric’ platform including both supercapacitors and regenerative brakes. These design principles are now being applied to fleets of local cars, with each fleet commercially viable from a single hydrogen filling station.
Wilderer said: “Riversimple’s business model appeals to forward looking and creative investors. We reject the traditional commercial model of selling cars in favour of selling usage contracts. This turns efficiency and longevity into a source of competitive advantage.”
The company was started by Hugo Spowers, who developed the company with the support of a network of British universities and BOC. He now has twin roles as Riversimple’s Technology Director and Company Architect.
‘We have taken a whole systems approach to personal transport and designed solutions which are technologically and economically suited to the new century,’ says Spowers. ‘We are delighted to have continued support from Bscope and the Piëch Nordhoff family.’