Fuel cell cars have been on a massive journey since the idea was first born back in the 1980s.
There have been a huge number of obstacles on the way of fuel cells becoming a mass-produced product. For example, they had to be shrunk down to actually fit in a car rather than in the back of a van. They then had to be made more affordable for the average person - not everyone's a millionaire! Despite overcoming all of these obstacles, and many more, the fuel cell car prototypes were still extremely inefficient. Producing, compressing, and transporting the gas was also very costly. However, that all may be about to change thanks to a company called Riversimple and their fuel cell car - Rasa.
Founded by Hugo Spowers, a former motor racer and mechanical engineer of race cars, Riversimple has an aim to design and manufacture compact, economical, yet still affordable, fuel cell cars, which is exactly what they've done and intend to continue doing as they move into the future. Around 15 years ago, Spowers decided to stop working with combustion engines and had the idea of building a hydrogen-powered vehicle and was determined to make it happen. Despite all the obstacles and downfalls of the current hydrogen-powered vehicles, he was set on overcoming all of the issues and building a better car. So that's what he did.
Over the next decade, Spowers spent long hours working on a design for the car and its fuel cell and eventually, he hand-built an aerodynamic vehicle which only weighs about 580 kilograms - about 40 kilograms more than the battery of a Tesla Model S. The design of the car and the fuel cell is quite complex, but it does work as intended.
To run the car, hydrogen is combined which oxygen which then allows the fuel cell to provide electrical energy. That electrical energy then powers the motors while emitting only water, no carbon dioxide whatsoever. In addition to all of this, the car has a motor in each of its four wheels to provide drive and braking, a carbon tub keeps weight down, and an aerodynamic design keeps drag reduced.
How efficient is it? Well, this small, compact car can drive about 300 miles on a tank of just 1.5kg of hydrogen. That isn't even the best part! The hydrogen is actually compressed to just 350bar, not the 700bar the industry majors use. Not only does this use less energy, but it also makes for much cheaper filling stations and therefore a more economical system.
While this is extremely impressive, it may not be enough to convince most people. So, alongside its cheap costs, the Rasa is so green that its well-to-wheel CO2 emissions are about 40g/km. Compared to electric vehicles, that CO2 figure is far better than any electric car on the market right now. The next step for Spowers and his company is to build charging stations, just as electric vehicles already have, to make the car more attractive to consumers going on into the future.
Hydrogen-powered cars seemed like a sci-fi story just a few years ago. Despite many people working on them, there was no finishing line as they were all too inefficient and seemed impractical for the real world. However, Spowers and Riversimple have proved everyone wrong and have finally produced the world's most economical fuel cell car. Hopefully, with more investment and marketing, these cars will be mass-produced and we’ll eventually start seeing them on the roads!