Tesla has some hydrogen-powered competition on its hands. The Rasa, a car designed by British automaker Riversimple, uses reverse electrolysis to convert 3.3 pounds of hydrogen with oxygen to travel for up to 300 miles. It’s fast, it’s eco-friendly, and it’s the sort of specs that could give the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 a run for its money.
The car was built around the basis that while batteries are good for short journeys of around 100 miles, past that point, hydrogen is the more eco-friendly option. Riversimple’s founder Hugo Spowers explained in a CNBC interview Friday that it will use a unique pricing system “more like a mobile phone.” There’s no option to buy the car. Instead, drivers will pay a monthly fee that covers usage, refueling, and insurance. It’s a model that could entice naysayers to give it a test run, and there are plenty out there: Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2014 described hydrogen fuel cells as “mind-bogglingly stupid,” “incredibly dumb,” and “fool cells.”
The car is a two-seater “network electric” car that uses four electric motors for each wheel, a motor braking system that recovers 50 percent of kinetic energy, and 8.5-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell, all packed into a design weighing 1,279 pounds with prototypes reaching over 60 miles per hour. The car is expected to provide the equivalent of 250 miles per gallon with just 40gCO2/km emissions in the whole process, even when the hydrogen is sourced from natural gas.
It all sounds impressive, but Musk has dismissed hydrogen before as it’s hard to handle, worse in terms of mass volume and worse in cost. The Tesla Model 3, which entered production last summer, is Musk’s mass market push for all-electric. The five-seater, 3,814-pound car has up to 310 miles of range, a top speed of 140 miles per hour, and a partial recharge time of around half an hour from the company’s network of superchargers. Unlike the Rasa, Tesla also allows consumers to buy the car outright.
While Riversimple has a number of prototype models in the garage, mass production is not set to start until 2020. Tesla is gradually ramping up production of the Model 3, and Riversimple could find tough competition on its doorstep when right-hand drive models start shipping in 2019.
It’s not the only hydrogen firm after a piece of Tesla. Nikola, developers of a hydrogen-powered truck, is suing Tesla for $2 billion of the design of its all-electric Semi truck.