A British 'company' - it's not so much a company as a co-operative, by the sound of things - has come up with a very interesting idea for personal urban transportation. According to the BBC:
The manufacturer of a hydrogen car unveiled in London on Tuesday will make its designs available online so the cars can be built and improved locally.
The Riversimple car can go 80 km/hr (50 mph) and travels 322 km (200 miles) per re-fuelling, with an efficiency equivalent to 300 miles to the gallon.
The cars will be leased with fuel and repair costs included, at an estimated £200 ($315) per month.
The company hopes to have the vehicles in production by 2013.
Next year, it aims to release 10 prototypes in a UK city which yas yet to be confirmed.
Riversimple has partnered with gas supply company BOC to install hydrogen stations for the cars in the city where the prototypes are launched.
The car itself is an amalgam of high-efficiency approaches in automotive design.
Its four motors are powered by a fuel cell rated at just six kilowatts, in contrast to current designs that are all in excess of 85 kilowatts - required because the acceleration from a standing start requires a great deal of power.
Riversimple's solution is to power the car also from so-called "ultracapacitors", which store large amounts of electric charge and, crucially, can release that charge nearly instantly to provide the power needed to accelerate from rest.
The ultracapacitors are charged as the vehicle brakes to a halt, converting the energy of the moving car into stored energy.
Without a combustion engine, gearbox, or transmission, and with a shell made of carbon fibre composites, it weighs 350kg.
There's more at the link. Here's a video clip of the launch.
What's particularly interesting is Riversimple's approach to manufacturing and development. They specifically don't want to follow the traditional 'sell-a-car' model of traditional manufacturers. By offering the vehicles for lease only, including fuel, they intend to make it possible for local businesses to set up assembly plants, as it will be economically viable to produce only a few thousand units per year.
Plans for the vehicle will be placed in the public domain through the 40 Fires Foundation. Any improvements developed by local producers will be made available in the same way, so that all producers can benefit from the shared experience and expertise of others.
This may sound Utopian, but Heaven knows, we've got into an awful rut with the present model of personal transportation! If Riversimple can 'break the mold' and produce something viable for general use (at least in cities), and make it both cheaper and more environmentally friendly, I'll be the first to cheer them on.