Sunday, September 27, 2009

Riversimple Urban Car plans to turn cars into a service, such as telephones

The week before the last one we brought you information on a car that promises to join things that, nowadays, seem to be completely opposite to each other: fuel cell cars and low cost, as well as personal transportation and mobility. The first two are apparently opposed to each other because current fuel cell cars are very expensive and only have been leased to few people. One example of these cars is Honda FCX Clarity. The other two conflict because people buy cars that can normally carry up to five people, but only the driver rides it in a regular basis. This behavior fills the streets completely with cars and threatens personal mobility. The car that seems to have solved these matters is called Riversimple Urban Car. And it will manage to do that with a simple formula: turning mobility into a service, such as light, water and telephones.

Although it has been revealed on June 16, we only managed to obtain its pictures now, hence the delay. RUC (Riversimple Urban Car) will manage to be cheap, even powered by a fuel cell, using a smal unit, able to produce 6 kW. That will certainly cust cost. Performance is assured by very efficient regenerative brakes (they recover 50% of the energy spent in braking, while other systems manage to recover only 10%) and ultracapacitors. The car will be able to reach a top speed of 80 km/h, will be able to go from 0 to 56 km/h in 5.5 s, will have a 320 km range (if not longer) and an estimated fuel economy equivalent to 106.2 km/l of petrol. But using hydrogen as fuel and producing only water as a by-product.

As for the other part of the mission (assuring personal mobility with low, if any, environment impacts), the car will not be owned by its driver: it will be rented, or leased, if you prefer the correct term for it. The cars are expected to last for at least 20 years and may have different leasing contracts. One of them could last three years with a 200 pounds installment every month (about US$ 330), but, as well as mobile phones, prices and conditions may vary.

According to declarations from Hugo Spowers, head of the project, that price would include maintenance, insurance and all the fuel needed by the car. In other words, hydrogen. When you refuel your RUC, the bill will go to Riversimple. That will make the company look for fuel efficiency improvements throughout all the car lifetime cycle.

The idea is revolutionary, but this revolution should scare no one, since it comes for the benefit of everybody. First of all, it assures the same individual freedom of choice a car offers. After all, RUC is a car, or, to be more precise, a two-seater built mostly of composite materials, what will make it extremely light (about 350 kg). Secondly, by being light and carrying only two people, it has minimal environment impacts (fuel cells produce electricity and water, nothing else). If hydrogen is generated by renewable sources, environment impacts tend to be close to zero.

Still according to Spowers, five prototypes will be built at the end of next year for tests. Then, by the end of 2011, 50 cars will be built and placed in the hands of regular customers in British cities, what should become effective by 2012. There are no words, so far, on what will happen after that, but we are trying to clarify this matter as soon as possible.

Besides all these ideas, the car will also be developed as an open source vehicle, like some softwares such as Linux. According to Riversimple, this will help the idea spread to many parts of the globe without the structure a regular carmaker would need.

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