I have frequently written on this blog about air pollution and the need to curb the use of diesel engines. I have also frequently written about the advantages of electric or hydrogen fuel cell technologies and a particular favourite of mine the Riversimple car.
The last few weeks have seen interesting developments. The evidence of the damage caused by diesel engines and the media interest in this is steadily growing. Client Earth and the European Union are thankfully still pressing ahead with legal action against our government for their lack of action on improving air quality.
Riversimple has at last unveiled the Rasa. Being a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle its only tailpipe emission is a little water. For 15 years they’ve been developing a car that seeks systematically to eliminate the unsustainability of personal transport. The key is to make every component as light weight as possible, so the overall weight of the car is only 580 kg. This year they plan to make 20 cars and trail them in one, as yet undisclosed, locality based around a hydrogen re-fuelling facility. By 2018 they hope to be in larger batch production, and by then hydrogen re-fuelling stations should be very much more common. The Rasa is a two-seater version and it is envisaged that larger cars will follow.
I think in many ways my transport requirements are typical of many people. Most days I don’t need a car. I work from home a lot and live in an urban setting where pretty much everything I need is within walking or cycling distance. I use a shopping trolley for heavy shopping. I use public transport when I travel to other towns and cities or to go on holiday. A few times each month a car is very useful. Often a small two-seater car like the Riversimple Rasa would be ideal. Maybe once a month a bigger car is useful for when a group of us go out for the day, or to transport bulky items. Owning a car hampers flexibility. Often people drive a car weighing a tonne to get just themselves to work, or to go shopping, when such a car is simply too big for the purpose. Or the car sits unused for long periods. Either way this seems a waste of resources and curiously old fashioned. The more efficient and modern way is to give up the ownership of vehicles and utilize more diverse methods of transport best suited to each individual trip. Shared ownership is key to this, and car sharing clubs, improved provision of public transport options and of cycle lanes are all part of a more sustainable future, as is the change from petrol and diesel to electric and hydrogen vehicles.
Many cities seem to have passed ‘peak car’, and now have growing populations, living increasingly densely together with rapidly declining car use. So far no city has completely banned the use of petrol and diesel cars, but it is only a matter of time before one does. Which will be first?