Business Spotlight: Riversimple
Riversimple, based in Llandrindod Wells, is a pioneering car manufacturer and service provider developing affordable, fun-to-drive hydrogen electric vehicles.
Riversimple joined the GlobalWelsh for Business programme in March 2023. Fiona Spowers, director, tells us more about how the company is changing the way cars are made, bought and used…
Tell us about how Riversimple started?
Our founder, Hugo, had a business over 15 years designing and building racing cars, and restoring historic racing cars, before environmental concerns led him to leave the world of motorsport in 1999. He set up OSCar Automotive in 2001, which became Riversimple in 2007.
He wanted to take a whole system approach to achieving sustainability in personal transport and make a step-change in both automotive technology and business model. The key to making this a success is to make doing the right thing more profitable rather than just business as usual.
"GlobalWelsh has been fantastic. Back in March we launched our crowdfunding campaign and they were very supportive in helping us get to our fundraising goal... We were delighted to have attracted the attention of Warren East CBE, who has become an investor and is now advising the Board."
What does Riversimple do?
In a nutshell, we are on a mission to eliminate the environmental impact of personal transport and we’re developing lightweight, highly efficient zero emission vehicles that are powered by hydrogen, rather than batteries. They emit nothing but water into the atmosphere.
The Riversimple Rasa at the Circular Economy Showcase in June 2023
Tell us a little about your technology and why you chose hydrogen?
Our cars run on electric motors, but the electricity is made ‘on demand’ from hydrogen passing through a fuel cell. The fuel cell is, in fact, a Welsh invention! Sir William Grove discovered that electrolysis can be reversed and made the first fuel cell in Swansea in 1839.
Hydrogen, like electricity, can be made from any energy source. With hydrogen, we can make lighter cars and we need fewer of the critical materials like Lithium that are needed for batteries. We also use lightweight composite materials rather than steel – all these factors increase vehicle efficiency.
From a practical perspective, our cars are refilled in the same way as a petrol or diesel car: three to five minutes at a pump and you’re on your way for 300-plus miles.
Tell us more about your unique business model?
Riversimple is probably the only car manufacturer in the world that hopes to never to sell a car. All of our vehicles will be available to customers on a totally cost- transparent subscription basis, which will include all service and maintenance and, most importantly, all the hydrogen. Just one direct debit a month and you’re done – super convenient. It is our goal to make affordable vehicles that are accessible for customers from all walks of life, which is only made possible with this business model.
We see our cars appealing particularly to those who want to ‘live lightly’ on the planet but we also believe fervently in preserving the freedom and independence that we are all used to from petrol and diesel cars. Just jump in and go!
"In a nutshell, we are on a mission to eliminate the environmental impact of personal transport and we’re developing lightweight, highly efficient zero emission vehicles that are powered by hydrogen, rather than batteries. They emit nothing but water into the atmosphere."
How have you been supported by GlobalWelsh so far?
GlobalWelsh has been fantastic. Back in March we launched our crowdfunding campaign and they were very supportive in helping us get to our fundraising goal. Through the GlobaWelsh Invest initiative we were introduced to a number of investors who have an interest in Wales and in particular the green sector. We were delighted to have attracted the attention of Warren East CBE, who has become an investor and is now advising the Board. He brings a great deal of wisdom to the conversation from his experiences at both ARM and Rolls-Royce.
What stage is the company at right now?
We are still pre-revenue. As you can imagine, pioneering new vehicles, developing new technology and a new business model is no mean feat. We’ve been very much focused on building a quality product and sticking to our ethos because these are the foundations on which we will build a sustainable business and realise our vision.
Our vehicles are going through trials with a small group of customers and we are absorbing all of the feedback. We are building an incredible team of people around us to get the vehicle and business ready for the next stage in our journey.
What’s next for Riversimple?
We are now, pardon the pun, gearing up for our Series A raise to prepare for volume production of our first car, which will be a small two-seat runabout developed on from the Rasa. Our first plant will need over 200 staff and make 5,000 cars a year, which we hope we can do in Wales.
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