I read through the article and a lot of blogs covering Riversimple
. Here's what it looks like under the hood
. It seems too early and preliminary for adoption. "Open Source" seems to have been employed purely as a buzzword to generate interest. Most of the detail is actually at the 40 Fires foundation website which will probably release design schematics. Their FAQ
answers questions I had in mind and is a good place for a starting read. The codename for this car is Hybran
. The EU welcomes Hydrogen cars
as a strong "Green" alternative.
If you do compare it to other initiatives like OSCar
, you would find this option from Riversimple probably at a better stage of adoption. But until they unveil their prototypes (16-Jun-2009 is not far
) and manufacturing goals (however they intend to go about it,) consumers will be skeptical about adoption. They first have to hit a note on consumers _wanting_ it or _needing_ it before proposing an attractive business model. Most of the prior comments reflect that we are not yet ready. Design momentum on OSCar seems to have stalled in the year 2006.
In contrast another vehicle release earlier this year happened in India with a lot of buzz about a $2,500 car, the Nano
from India. This car _can_ do more than 56 mpg
on Gasoline. It isn't green, but you can grab one, drive one and feel much safer than the electric counterparts that roam about the cities. This car went through at least 2 yrs of testing because the average consumer was scared about safety. The adoption was further slowed down by slow manufacturing response from Tata Motors.
India has allowed an Electric car (REVA
) to be used within City limits (for road safety and range concerns) manufactured by Reva
. The vehicle (a modest 4 wheeler) which comes in multiple flavors has low adoption rates in cities which allow it. This car through evolution has been heavier than India's top selling gasoline small-car the Maruti Suzuki 800cc 4 seater, and offers lesser range within a city. It has a very short range of 80-100km and requires battery packs to be replaced every two years (or depending on usage.) From June, 2001 the adoption has been very slow. During July, 2008 at least 260 Reva's (multiple models) were sold which is a record high. The Reva is priced at a one time price tag of close to $6,500 with an installed set of batteries. These have to be replaced at about $1000 every year. There's some comprehensive information and links on the Wikipedia Article (Reva)
. The cost has been a factor in slowing down adoption added to the fact that electric charges are required almost on a nightly basis. India has welcomed the car with reduced parking charges and several cuts. The G-Whiz model sold outside India is far too pricey ($12000 in Chile) and does not enjoy these environment friendly regulatory benefits.
For crowded cities in India where pollution is a heavy problem, Electrical cars with limited range for office commuters who'd prefer some shade (where public transport is a little inconvenient with timings) has received early adoption. i would presume that countries facing rapid development and growth rates will have to take this more seriously. Scaling public transport infrastructure has always been a challenge in many developing countries owing to a myriad of reasons. The basis for creating indices to track air pollution is outlined quite well in this paper (PDF) from IOP
As many earlier comments point out accurately, adoption of such alternatives will require regulatory laws from the government (Road taxation, Commercial tax holidays, Green Credits and a lot more.) The working business model for Leasing automobiles is already here
. The period being talked about (20yrs) might need to be tweaked which is presumably because of high manufacturing and deployment costs on low initial volume.
There are some pitfalls of lightweight cars at an early stage. Their ride heights are incredibly low that restricts markets in which they can be adopted. It might even keep them out of developing countries until the designs are tested. IMHO coming up with a disruptive solution to personal transport and tagging it with another 20yr lease agreement without the support of an auto major who's made it over a decade selling small cars or energy efficient cars is asking too much from the consumer. The "Open Source" tag means too little unless auto manufacturers see this as the best way to go forward.