back to article Hydrogen-powered two-seater car unveiled

British boffins have unveiled what they believe is the future of urban personal transport - a prototype two seater micro-car powered by a single hydrogen fuel cell. RUC_03 Riverside's hydrogen-powered car Inside the Riversimple Urban Car (RUC) lurks a 6kW fuel cell that drives the car’s four electric motors – with one …


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  1. Jack Harrer
    Thumb Down

    One word to describe it


    Also the idea of hydrogen is stupid. You need to get it from somewhere, yes? Oh, let's use electricity! From coal burning power stations as there's nothing else around. It's little inefficient? Happens, in 30 years we will get there. And kill Earth in the process.

    Electric cars are slightly better. It's not that those are mighty effective, but at least are cleaner (on the spot, not general) and quieter. If only batteries were cheaper...

  2. Michael Baines
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    £200 per month for 20 years?

    That's a bit ambitious isn't it? Do they really expect it to be worth £200 per month in 3-5 years time never mind 20?

  3. Anonymous Coward
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    What is it with these bloody eco cars...

    ...I need a boot. Simple. Enough to get our crap in, oh and seats for the kids. Like to see get a fridge in the back of this.

    It's this reason the Ford Focus and not the tonka toy Smart car is the most popular car in Britain.

    Why bother with a 250 mile range when you can't even get a bloody suitcase in the boot.

    And relax....

  4. Nigel Callaghan Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More car parks please

    Sounds a pretty good idea - but with the size of those doors and the way they open up it'll take 3 parking spaces!

  5. Damian Skeeles

    Capacitor charging

    Your article missed the good bit...

    The small fuel cell will charge the ultracapacitors during driving - so although the 6kW fuel cell alone will provide pitiful acceleration, it will be able to maintain a cruise, and charge the capacitors during lower power usage.

    So - you turn the car on - the fuel cell charges the capacitors, and then you hit the pedal and the capacitors provide a surge of power to get you moving. Once moving, the fuel cell keeps you there. And when you brake at the lights, the regenerative braking charges the capacitors, ready to move off with another surge of power when the lights go green.

    Which is basically a sensible answer to the "pitiful fuel cell power output" problem. Cool!

  6. Steve Read 1


    "made of entirely recyclable composite materials"

    As opposed to normal cars which are made of entirely recyclable steel?

  7. Lionel Baden

    ahh how sweet

    another little car for the 4x4 drivers to bully

  8. Steven 23
    Thumb Down

    Please tell me I read that wrong...

    "Instead of selling the RUC outright, Riversimple plans to lease out the car over a 20-year period for around £200 ($327/€236) per month – a price that will include the cost of the hydrogen."

    Thats £48000 by my calculation? And a 20 year contract? Thats worse than the iPhone!

  9. Simon Neill


    £200 * 12 months * 20 years = £48,000. Even with fuel included that seems a little high for such a small car.

  10. Steven Jones


    I don't want to sound negative, but 6kw (about 8bhp) isn't going to accelerate anthing very fast. If, with two adults and some luggage on board, this thing weighs (say) 500kg (assuming the ampty vehicle is about 320kg), then at 30mph that's almost 90KJ of kinetic enery, or about 15 seconds of acceleration at 6kw even with 100% efficiency and neglecting losses due to friction, drag and so on.

    So I very much hope that those capacitors have got the means to provide considerably more than 6kw peak power output, or we have something much like a G-Wiz in performance, albeit it considerably prettier.

    The peak output of bettery powered cars is something of an advantage in acceleration, not to mention the abilitiy to store off-peak and intermittent green power sources. Of course that can be done to generate hydrogen too, but the end-to-end thermodynamic efficiency of the hydrogen cycle is atrocious. By the time that losses in electrolysis and compression are taken into account, you'll be lucky to see 30% of that green electricity delivered at the wheels vs perhaps 80% using batteries.

    Anyway, not a bad idea as a city run-about and it does get over the range and kerbside charging issues of battery cars (assuming refill stations are available). However, surely nobody is going on a long journey with one of these. Show it a moderately steep hill and, two-up, you are going to be lucky to see 15-20mph. 6kw is enough to lift one of these things just over a metre per second. On a one-in-ten that equates to perhaps 25mph at most two-up. If it's one-in-six then halve that...

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Anyone interested in setting up a website?

    Or for those caught opening the doors in a downpour –

  12. Gary F

    Looks nice but it is NOT GREEN

    The energy required to produced hydrogen is greater than what the hydrogen itself can produce. And the energy in their production comes from the national grid and other fossil fuels.

    To quote one expert "More energy is needed to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds than can ever be recovered from its use".

  13. Kev K
    Thumb Up

    @Lionel Baden

    You sir, owe me a new keyboard.

    Logitech will be fine by return of post please

    Oh and a boot would be nice on the car too

  14. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    like that, but...

    ....needs a 650cc single pot thumper, or a 'Busa lump in the rear, rather than leccy.

    Mmm, road legal, weather-pooofed go-kart.

    Steven R

  15. Chris Paulson


    Wake me up when the ecomentalists have gone...

    0 - 60 time?


    Saw a 300bhp 1.3 yes 1.3 MK2 escort this weekend - now that is interesting!

  16. Stacy
    Thumb Down

    GBP 48000!!!

    200*12*20 = 48000

    So... I can drive either this or a nice Jag?

    Tough choice :)

    Seriously though:

    36 months is an average lease - why would anyone want a longer one?

    As others have said: Fugly! Why not make it more like a Smart Roadster? Small, but at least it looks cool...

  17. Anonymous Coward

    But first....

    ...they will have to add all the safety requirements, crumple zones and side impact bars that are required to make the car road legal, or at least crash survivable. After that, you can halve the range and accelleration. it can be done, re: the Smart car.

    Nice town car / second car, would have one for driving to/from work and business milage. But will need a proper sized car for weekends and holidays and shopping.

  18. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    I'm puzzled by this.

    For a start is 6Kw really enough to ensure a 50mph top speed? Even if it is it doesn't sound like the acceleration will be up to much. With a couple of adults on board the weight will be 500kg or more, that gives a power to weight ratio of something like 16bhp/ton. Hardly enough to pull the skin of a rice pudding. If there's one thing that is necessary to keep you safe in a small vehicle in urban traffic it's sprightly acceleration, something that 16bhp/ton will not give you.

    The next puzzle is the use of the word "recyclable". It's a marketing weasel word if ever I heard one. While these materials may be recyclable, so are most materials if you try hard enough. Saying they are recyclable tells us nothing about the damge done to the environment by their manufacture. If this thing wants to claim to be truly green then it should be made from recycled materials. It's interesting that most of the steel used in the world these days is recycled in as much as scrap metal is the main constituent in it's making. Wasn't there a story years ago that Fiat used steel from salvaged shipwrecks bought from the USSR? We don't hear car manufacturers shouting about their green credentials in using recycled materials do we? On reason for this could that the biggest harm done to the environment in making steel is in the smelting, not digging the raw materials out of the ground. So the question that needs to be asked is: What are these "recyclable" composites and what harm is done to the environment by their manufacture? If they are not willing to tell us then they can shut up about the materials being recyclable, it means next to cock all.

    Another puzzle is the spec. It's designed for urban transport and it's pigging slow. So why brag about the 240 mile range? Surely that's not something their chosen target market will be bothered about.

    My final puzzle is who they think their customer base is. Economical two seater vehicles are available today, but they are hardly popular. So have they discovered a large untapped market or are they deluding themselves?

  19. Filippo Silver badge

    Re: Looks nice but it is NOT GREEN

    "The energy required to produced hydrogen is greater than what the hydrogen itself can produce."

    ...well, duh?

    "And the energy in their production comes from the national grid and other fossil fuels."

    ...again, well duh?

    What were you expecting from the poor molecule - a violation of thermodynamics?

    Both hydrogen AND battery-powered cars are intrinsically useless unless the power grid makes a massive switch away from fossils. But this fact is not new, not surprising, not fixable by tech advances, and not a sufficient reason to reject hydrogen or battery-powered cars. Build the damn nuke plants already, then truly green cars will be actually possible.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. FreeTard
    Thumb Down

    Doomed to fail.... that price, I mean, come one.... 200 _pounds_ a month.... what a total joke.

    200 euro would be too much.

    Unless, or course, that covers tax & insurance... and even then it is too expensive for a plastic car.

    €100 including fuel, tax, insurance & free parking and it will sell. Otherwise....

  22. CC
    Thumb Down

    To Little Too Late

    The car is too small, too slow, hauls too little and as Honda found out with their Insight hydrogen car, can't go very far if the fuel isn't available.

    Again a company spends a ton of money on the body design when the drive system is what really counts and they messed up on both counts.

  23. Wortel


    About the lease, that's a sad deal breaker for many as it's just too expensive. As for missing some boot space, the average working person can live with that as they only carry a briefcase and laptop around. For them this vehicle is a nice city hopper.

    I'm personally more interested in the generator part of this vehicle, and wouldn't mind seeing a similar, slightly scaled up (in relation to vehicle purpose) version appear in more electric vehicles.

  24. Neil Hoskins


    At least they're making progress on size and weight. I watched a period film last night, based in 1928: have you any IDEA how TINY the Model-T was? Likewise the classic Mini and just about everything else in relative terms. Modern cars, including the prototype leccy ones, are too BIG and too HEAVY.

  25. Mike 35

    Fuel fools

    This is cool, but will flop because as much as we'd like nice economical cars, we like acceleration and lots of space.

    The landrover brigade will always get the next 4.6L eco smashing monster, then will never put anything bigger than a pair of (mud free) hunters in the boot and claim they need it tat big so little tarquin and his friends have plenty of space in the back.

    But this is just everybody else on a smaller scale, we don't want the inconvienience of having the £29.99 B&Q BBQ delivered because we can fit it in to the car etc.

    I don't run a car (I have a motorbike), I get shopping delivered and hire a car when I really need to (taking daughter to Uni etc.), quite frankly it's a pain in the arse, and if I could afford it I'd get a nice mazda 3 or 3 series BM, £200 a month (all in? insurance?) is OK but when you can pick up a car that will last 12 months for less than a grand, why bother?

    This car will be bought by people as a second car for work commutes (instead of sharing or using the bus/train), this won't help the environment in any way, and will probably make it worse, it will only become a good idea when it becomes the ONLY choice.

  26. Tony Hoyle

    20 years is insane

    Hands up how many have got a car that's lasted 20 years? If it really goes it looks like it might last 10 - of course by then it'll be totally outclassed by other cars in development, so won't be particularly efficient or clever by then.

    Just imagine yourself in 20 years driving on this thing that can manage 15mph on a steep hill, being shouted at by all the younger drivers doing 40+ in their nuclear powered hover cars. It aint pretty.

  27. Skizz

    To make Hydrogen really work...

    ...needs lots of pollution free electricity, which solar, wind, wave and other green methods just won't be able to produce enough of. If only governments had the balls to think really long term and invest heavily in something like fusion (plentiful supply of fuel, easy to mange waste, zero greenhouse gases) rather than trendy, headline grabbing short term solutions.


  28. Dave 16

    How far...

    off the road will this car be blown by a passing 18-wheeler going 75 MPH? Seems rather light.

    I do wonder does the 20-year lease include parts (or entire vehicle) replacement.

  29. Martin Lyne



    Less efficient that

    Electricity->Chemical Potential in Battery->Electricity.

    So more expensive, less opportunities to fill up, less efficient and clearly a death trap in an accident.

    I admire the attempt, but until those crazy nanotube hydrogen storage materials are commercially viable then hydrogen is not going to work for anyone. Already have a majority of the infrastructure needed for electricity.

    He-3 car, anyone?

  30. WonkoTheSane

    Looks like a Smart that melted in the sun.

    However, ISTR an American guy installed a panel system to crack his own H2 from a well.

    Could be a way to go on this?

  31. ian 22

    Collision in name space

    RUC = Royal Ulster Constabulary. Always was, always will.

  32. Steven Jones

    @Gary F

    "More energy is needed to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds than can ever be recovered from its use".

    Welcome to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. If only we could invent the perpetual motion machine.

    The thermodynamic efficiency of the hydrogen economy is disastrously bad. It only works if the electricity is available really, really cheaply, and if you can use batteries then it's generally more efficient.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Horses for courses...

    According to the press release:

    0-60 time = err, never (top speed is supposed to be 50 mph)

    But then driving a sports car through rush hour London traffic results in a larger than necessary petrol bill, a sore ankle and never attaining more than 25mph so 0-60 is pretty irrelevant. Perhaps that's why they called it an 'urban demonstrator'.

    Riversimple suggest that the 'well-to-wheel' emissions should be ~30g/km including all the conversion losses (based on forming hydrogen from natural gas) which still compares well with just the tailpipe emissions of a Smart or similar.

    Minimum lease term is suggested to be three years (not 20). However, the cars are designed with a minimum 20 year life expectancy.

    But perhaps we should not let the facts get in the way of a good moan.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real answer...

    Is to keep the chasis and wheel motors, sell it outright instead of lease it, and allow the buyer to drop whatever power source in it they want, batteries, fuel cell, whatever. I, for the forseeable future would guess a conventional (or turbine) engine and generator would be best.

  35. Mountford D

    Remember the C5?

    Where are the pedals on this?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Tony Hoyle

    Hand up! My 20 year old car is still going fine, all of the electric gadgetry still works, bodywork is fine, range is rather more than 240 miles, it accelerates up hills quite happily,

    ...okay, it's a Porsche 944 and only does 28 mpg! and it probably costs over £200 a month to run as well, but hey, it's fun!

  37. John Lawton

    Green Hydrogen

    No, hydrogen doesn't necessarily come from fossil fuels...


    Their hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, and the electricity is produced by generators running on landfill methane.

  38. NukEvil

    @Re: Looks nice but it is NOT GREEN

    "Build the damn nuke plants already, then truly green cars will be actually possible."


  39. Graham Bartlett


    They need £20m for 10 demonstrators? That values each demonstrator at £2m. Seriously, if they can't work smarter than that, then no-one with any sense is going to be putting any money their way.

  40. Ishkandar

    How to make a hydrogen bomb - Lesson 1

    First get a hydrogen fuel cell.....

    Rather changes the meaning of a car bomb !!

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Seems good value for money to me

    You sign up to the contract. In a years time they go bankrupt, and so long as you can still get hold of hydrogen you've still got a car :-)

  42. Michael C


    First, the fuel cell alone costs more than 48,000. This can only exist with that MASSIVE government subsidy of $20M to build the 10 cars....

    Next, great, it included H2... But how about those membrane replacements for the fuel cell?

    I'm assuming it's using liquid H2 as well, either pressure compressed or frozen to rediculous temps. It's going to take a lot of electricy to maintain that density of H2, or 6-10 hours at a pump to fill it up. (a common issue with ALL H2 powered vehicles).

    50MPH is barely usable as a commuter car, on city streets only, no freeways. It can only go where mopeds go... Why have a 240 mile range? ...and how are you going to get to the pumping station without getting on freeways in most places? The car will never be able to go more than 50 miles from it;s home in most cases....

    Oh yea, and it;s a rolling BOMB!

  43. Lotaresco

    Scientific Illiteracy

    Not just the makers, not just the journalists but also a significant number of those commenting here. Hydrogen is not produced by electrolysis from significant quantities. It is produced by passing hydrocarbons and steam over a catalyst ro produce hydrogen and that good old favourite carbon dioxide which is vented at the production site. The car may emit no CO2 at the point of use, but it emits just as much as any other vehicle of the same size/weight/power.

    As to the value of this car, it's hype, hype and more hype. For the £200 a month touted as the lease cost for this car one could have either a proper car suitable for four to five adults or a Smart CDi with sufficient fuel for 3000km of driving. The Smart car is functionally identical, except it's faster can be driven safely on a motorway and I suspect that an environmental audit would favour the Smart car.

  44. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    @AC But First

    "..they will have to add all the safety requirements, crumple zones and side impact bars that are required to make the car road legal, or at least crash survivable."

    No they won't. That's not a car, it's a quadricycle. Different set of requirements altogether.

  45. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    RUC = Green?

    I think not.

    Orange, perhaps. Never Green.

    Mine would be the jacket with the Celtic and Rangers scarves in the pockets.

  46. Mike Gravgaard
    Thumb Down

    Electric conversion kit

    I don't understand why manufacturers don't just make a conversion kits for their older cars?

    I drive an old '65 Beetle with 1200cc engine and 4 speed gear box - it's top speed is around 70MPH (scary on motorways).

    I would in a second - convert this to electric if get the following:

    -Bracket to gearbox casing to 'bolt on electric motor'

    -A standard modular based lithium battery pack(s) (ideally where individual cells can be replaced).

    -Welded or bolted bracket(s) for holding said batteries.

    Seriously how differiult is it to replace engine with motor (say 6 - 10KW motor), DC to DC control box, regen braking system and batteries and if there were a standard size battery packs used by all manufacturers then the prices would be driven down - I suspect though that electric car prices will be kept artifically high for a while though.


  47. Anonymous Coward

    @ some fellow posters

    I disagree with what some fellow posters say about this car not being green:

    1) by cleverly using ultracapacitors, one avoids the need to haul around a 500+ kg propulsion or energy storage unit - as with a normal or a battery car. Through this and the general light weight, energy demand is minimised.

    2) can one not make hydrogen using off-peak electricity output, which I vaguely gather is cheaper because it's surplus?

    3) if you really think concentrations of fumes in the city aren't a problem, go stand in a traffic island in the centre of the Euston Road for five minutes...

  48. James O'Shea


    My car gets well over 360 miles on a single fill-up. And it has good acceleration, a max speed in excess of 120 MPH (not that I've ever gone that fast, too many radar-equipped coppers around here), it costs a whole lot less than £200/month, and can carry five adults (six with some squeezing) and a fair amount of stuff in the back... but it's an Evil Petrol-Burning Anti-Gaia Device. I'd bet that it actually produces less CO2, though, once you allow for the real costs of generating that hydrogen. It's utter bullshit like this stupid thing which makes me distrust anything which is emitted by eco-freaks. Where's the French secret service when we really need them?

  49. mark l 2 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    hydrogen better than batteries at the moment

    Hydrogen will always be a better option than batteries if the infractstructure is built to exisiting petrol filling station to provide hydrogen, fill a hydrogen cars tank will take a few minutes and you off on your journey again.

    Recharging a battery the best estimatations ive seen so far have been 20 mintues to several hours for a 100 mile journey, your not going to convince people who drive petrol cars than can be filled in minutes to switch to electric cars that require a minimum 20 min refueling time. Time = money as they say

  50. Charles Manning

    Damn good idea!

    All this bloke is doing is securing 20M quid of green funding.

    The car does not have to be practical. The company does not need to be profitable.

    All they need are to spout enough buzzwords to get interest from investors: hydrogen, recycle, rental model, ...

    Once the investors' money runs out then it is on to the next scam.

  51. G.R.L. Cowan, H2-to-B convert


    "If 1KG takes it 240 miles, why not give it a 3KG tank? iI's not like it's a massive amount of weight...."

    Actually it's exactly like that. One of GM's efforts along this line had a tank complex that massed 75 kg empty, 77 kg full.

    (<em><a href="">How fire can be domesticated</a></em>)

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Wait, don't I know that guy?

    If this weren't a UK-based project I'd suspect Al Gore was mixed up in it. He may yet be, as this is exactly the sort of eco-scam he's famous for. It's a pity that entrepreneurs, engineers, accountants and scientists seem unable to speak the same language. If they could, projects like this would likely never see the light of day. One thing I DO agree with, though, build the damn nukes, already. The efficiency far supasses any hydrocarbon-based or passive collection system. As for the waste, in a few years it'll be technically and economically feasible to launch the crap at Sol, which will gobble it up without a burp.

  53. Gerrit Hoekstra

    End of recycling cycle

    Once a composite material has been made, it is not recyclable, even if it were made from recyclable base materials. And don't forget the toxicity and non-degradability of the material-binder. The claim that this car is 'green' is spurious at best: Far better to make it from easy-to-separate alu and steel - this can be recycled many times over.

    (And lets face it, you WILL want to recycle it real soon after getting it, because it looks like the East-German Trabant.)

  54. Ross 7

    Hydrogen production

    Hydrogen production doesn't need to use any electricity at all, never mind lots. There's no need to break the 2nd rule of thermodynamics either. Chloroplasts have been doing it for billions of years using only sunlight.

    Personally I don't like the idea of sitting on 1Kg of hydrogen whilst surrounded by a plastic box, but that's a survival instinct not an environmental or technical feasibility issue. I do agree that we're going to have to get a decent amount of energy from renewable sources though (or at least the sun - who cares about where the leccy is coming from when the sun goes out/swallows Earth) but I don't think current thinking on hydrogen tech is the way forward.

  55. No, I will not fix your computer


    >>What were you expecting from the poor molecule - a violation of thermodynamics?

    Hmm.... if you crack water into hydrogen and oxygen and then join them back into water again you can't possibly gain any energy, and you will lose some (heat, compression etc.) but if you crack something at a higher energy state (methane) then join them back to something of a lower energy state (water) depending on the efficiency of the process you may have a net gain, this is true for getting hydrogen out of fossil fuel.

    energy of H2O bond - energy of CH4 bond - energy used in process = net gain

    And if you had bothered to check the link that Gary F used (rather than just duh'ing) you'd see that it does explain that some processes release 25% of the net energy.

  56. Steven Jones

    @Ross 7

    Hydrogen production doesn't need to use any electricity at all, never mind lots. There's no need to break the 2nd rule of thermodynamics either. Chloroplasts have been doing it for billions of years using only sunlight.

    It's news to me that Chloroplasts generate free hydrogen. However, if the general point is that photosynthesis takes in light and produces chemicals that can be used to generate (and, some sub-stages work without increasing entropy) then fine. But that's not much use in producing hydrogen for a fuel cell. You could be better off using old-fashioned things like bio-ethanol, but be warned. Plants are (overall) very inefficient turners of light into usable energy. A photocell does vastly better in that respect.

    Direct light to hydrogen production by splitting of water without electrolysis has been a dream among many for a long time with very little success, and electrolysis remains the only currently viable way of doing it although there is a tremendous amount of effort being put into it. Of course that's if you start with light - if you have electricity generated from other "green" sources, such as geo, wind, tidal or hydro then you are stuck with electrolysis.

    Generating hydrogen from other hydrocarbon resources looks more efficient, but it is a spurious saving as it sacrifices some of the chemical potential energy in source material.

  57. Matt 130
    Thumb Down

    Form over function.

    For £200 pcm I want a car that will do more than transport me. I'd like room for my shopping. I'd like to go somewhere with luggage and a passenger. Fat chance. Oh, and I'd like to not have to use a disabled spot to have room to open my doors.

    Why can't they just take the technology that they've produced, and ask GM if they'll put it in a Corsa?

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