Out-of-autoclave carbon composites lightweight fuel cell-powered urban car

Advanced Composites Group prepreg finds application in Riversimple fuel cell-powered concept car.

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Composites are rapidly becoming the de facto material of choice in a long line of recently introduced lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles designed to reduce the automotive carbon footprint and minimize gasoline consumption. One of the latest is a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car produced by Riversimple LLC (Herefordshire, U.K.). The lightweight, two-seat urban car concept’s compact hydrogen fuel cell delivers power to four electric motors, one mounted at each of the wheel hubs.

The car’s body shell and hood are each molded in one-shot processes, using composite materials manufactured by Advanced Composites Group Ltd. (ACG, Heanor, U.K.). ACG’s LTM26ELB (extended outlife, black-pigmented) carbon/epoxy prepreg materials reportedly permitted the use of low-cost tooling and manufacturing technologies. The processing technique used by Riversimple was out-of-autoclave vacuum bagging. (This material also can be compression-molded and autoclave-cured.)

According to Riversimple, the car’s top speed is 50 mph/80 kmh (0 to 30 mph/48 kmh in 5.5 seconds) and, at less than 800 lb/363 kg empty weight, it can travel 200 miles between refueling stops on a little more than 2 lb/0.91 kg of hydrogen. Company officials estimate that the annual operating cost of the car, including fuel and maintenance, will be £2,500 ($4,132 USD).

Riversimple was founded by former motorsports engineer and racecar driver Hugo Spowers, who departed the racing world over concern for its environmental impact and has since pursued zero-emission personal transportation technology. Influenced, in part, by think-tank founder Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (Snowmass, Colo.) work on electric vehicles in the late 1990s, Spowers earned an MBA from Cranfield University, where he conducted a marketing feasibility study on hydrogen fuel cell cars before forming Riversimple. The company reportedly will depart from auto OEM business as usual by leasing rather than selling the vehicles and producing them in multiple small, regional production facilities, which will allow for considerable local variation. For more information, visit www.riversimple.com.

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