Will your next electric car (and e-bike) be hydrogen powered?

March 30, 2023

alpha fuel cell bicycle

The internal combustion engine has done an admirable job at resisting obsolescence. In the face of climate breakdown, an air pollution crisis and the continuing cheating of emissions testing, car makers (and legislators) have been reluctant to curb use of fossil fuels. However, the death knell for the internal combustion is tolling as the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles looms. The question no longer is are the internal combustion engine’s days numbered, but how quickly they become obsolete.

One challenge associated with a wholesale change to electric cars is how 30 million EVs in the UK would be charged for everyday use. Riversimple believe they have the answer. The Rasa is their hydrogen-fuelled electric car that aims to radically change the way we think of personal transport because it's never owned outright. Instead, it's leased like a mobile phone.

Using hydrogen as a fuel for electric vehicles does away with the need for battery charging infrastructure - an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen produces electricity to power a motor. These so-called fuel cell vehicles can travel longer distances than electric vehicles that need to be re-charged directly from a mains supply.


Every aspect of the Rasa has been created for simplicity, efficiency, lightness, strength, affordability, safety and sustainability. In some respects, the Rasa can be likened to the Citroen 2CV, the iconic workhorse of post-war France. The two cars share a purpose of design, top speed of 60 mph and a weight of around 600 kg, but the Rasa is very much a car for today. Its chassis is a monocoque made from very stiff carbon fibre composites and yet weighs less than 40kg.

Weight distribution is even thanks to four electric motors, one in each wheel. The motors double up as brakes – recovering over 50% of kinetic energy when braking. Super-capacitors store this energy and provide most of the power for acceleration.

Rather than buying the hydrogen car outright or having to set up a hire purchase agreement, a simple pricing structure enables customers to pay a single monthly fee that covers everything – the car, the maintenance, the insurance, breakdown cover and fuel. The rationale is that customers have all the pleasure but none of the hassle of ownership. And from the manufacturer's perspective, it pays to make a car that lasts as long, and runs as well, as possible. More at riversimple.com

How does a hydrogen car work?

Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for electric cars thereby doing away with the need for a battery – the car does not have an engine in the conventional sense as it uses instead a fuel cell stack, a device that uses an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity to power a motor. These so-called fuel cell vehicles can travel longer distances than electric vehicles that need to be re-charged directly from a mains supply.

At an early stage, the Riversimple venture was backed by Sebastian Piech, a great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who in 1898 worked on the Lohner Electric Chaise – one of the world’s earliest electric cars. The Lohner car had a top speed of 31 mph and a maximum range of 30 miles.

Hydrogen-powered e-bikes

As we move ever closer to the ban on sales of petrol and diesel vehicles, the need for recharging infrastructure looks likely to hamper the uptake of electric cars - particularly in urban areas. E-bikes suffer no such problems, but it hasn't stopped one company from developing the world's first hydrogen-powered e-bike . The Alpha Neo electric-assist bike claims a refuelling time of less than two minutes and a range of up to 145 km.



Insurance for e-bikes

We cover all road-legal electric bicycles as standard. If the output of your electric bicycle does not exceed 250 W/15.5 mph, we’ll cover it under our cycle insurance at no additional cost.

We also include Cycle Rescue as standard. If your ebike develops a mechanical fault, you can call on our breakdown team 24/7.

Every cycle insurance policy of ours includes the following as standard:

• Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
• E bike battery theft cover
• Cycle Rescue (breakdown cover for your electric bicycle and you)
• No devaluation of your bike over time
• £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
• Shed and garage storage
• Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)

Read a full list of everything we include as standard.


The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK's most ethical provider.


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