British company, Riversimple, has shown its Mk 1 "network electric" car. The car is a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle about the size of a Smart Car.

The car features unique technologies that enable it to run on a 6kW fuel cell, with a fuel consumption equivalent to 0.008 litres per kilometre with greenhouse gas emissions at 30g per kilometre – less than a third of that from the most efficient petrol-engine cars  (and ten times better than that if the hydrogen comes from renewable resources). It has a range of 320 kilometres and a top speed of 80 kilometres per hour

If that’s not revolutionary enough, Riversimple has a unique business model:

  • The designs of the car will be released under an open source licence. This allows people to freely build on ideas and designs, speeding up innovation and enabling technologies to be quickly improved. Developing countries can build manufacturing capacity without having to pay any licence fees to first-world companies.
  • The cars have a low component count and carbon composite bodies. This means that smaller manufacturing plants will be needed. Riversimple envisages many small, local plants, each making around 5,000 cars a year. With conventional pressed steel bodies, each factory needs to produce about 300,000 a year of the same model to be economically viable. One advantage of this is that cars can be designed to suit very specific niche markets. Another is that manufacturers can start small and build up their capacity as demand grows.
  • The cars will be leased, not sold. The lease will include the maintenance of the car, its fuel and recycling of the car at the end of its life.The estimated leasing price is £200 ($au360) a month. Riversimple argues that if cars are sold, the only incentive is to produce more; whereas with leasing (including running costs) the incentive to to build for longevity and efficiency.