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16 July, 2009 - 09:44 By Staff Reporter

Automotive entrepreneur seeks £20m to commercialise hydrogen car

A former motorsport engineer and Cranfield MBA student is seeking to raise £20m to move commercialisation of his 300 mpg hydrogen-powered car into the fast lane.

Hugo Spowers has spent ten years developing the Riversimple Urban Car, which can travel 240 miles before needing to be refuelled and reach speeds of up to 50 mph The car has so far received funding totalling £5m, coming from the family of Ernst Piech and a grant from the BOC Foundation. But having recently unveiled the first demonstrator vehicle to the world's press, Spowers' company, Riversimple now has to raise a further £20 million to build ten prototypes by the end of next year, and a further 50 by the end of 2011. It is hoped this money will also fund the designing of a manufacturing factory. The two-seater car uses a hydrogen fuel cell, has an electric motor on each wheel, stores a high proportion of the energy generated when braking in a bank of ultra-capacitors and has a body made of lightweight composites. Cranfield University has played a leading role in the development of the new car, with its Department of Automotive Engineering creating the system which allows the driver to control the car’s movements. James Marco, lecturer in the Department of Automotive Engineering, said: “Our software is what pulls all the elements together and moves it from individual parts to a functioning vehicle.”   The Riversimple Urban Car will be leased to individuals, companies and car clubs. The long term goal is to eliminate the environmental impact of personal transport and build a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in cities around the country. Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband recently revealed that the Government would be pumping £10m into refuelling infrastructure as part of its 'route map' to reduce the country's carbon emissions. Former director of Cranfield’s School of Management, John Constable, is now chairman of Riversimple, the limited liability partnership established to design and build electric network cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Constable added: “It is realistic to expect a commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell car option in the next 5 to 10 years. We realise this car won’t remove the combustion engine car from the market in the short to medium term, but it will provide a wider choice for the public.” As well as Cranfield University, the engineering team has also involved Oxford University and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, headquartered in Singapore. Constable said: “Hugo set out to design a sustainable car which would dramatically affect the car industry and the cars that we use during his MBA. His thinking was ahead of its time and showed great initiative and thinking outside the box. It is a remarkable achievement. “It is an electric car with a lot of electronics and software in it which controls everything going on. Cranfield helped to integrate all the systems together. Cranfield is one of the few universities in the UK that has an automotive department and we chose the University because of the skills and facilities available.”

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