British firm Riversimple showed the first prototype of a small hydrogen-powered fuel cell car in 2009, but there's been little apparent activity from the company in recent years. Now Riversimple is back with a new car called the Rasa—as in tabula rasa, Latin for "clean slate."

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Not everything is completely different, though. Like Riversimple's last design, the Rasa is a tiny two-seater coupe. But it now boasts a carbon fiber monocoque that weighs just 88 pounds, helping to keep the weight of the entire car down to 1,146 lb. Power comes from an 8.5-kilowatt fuel cell stack and four in-wheel electric motors. The Rasa has a 300-mile range and a top speed of 60 mph, according to Riversimple.

Almost as unusual as the Rasa itself is the way Riversimple plans to market it. It will offer the car through a "sale of service" model that's almost like a subscription service. Customers will pay a fixed monthly fee that covers fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Riversimple says the cost of one of these plans—which will include a mileage allowance—will be similar to ownership costs for a "new family-sized hatchback."

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Under this scheme, customers do not own their cars outright. Instead, they will return or exchange them at the end of a predetermined ownership period. This means never having to worry about depreciation, says Riversimple.

Of course, the company needs to have a car to offer customers first. The company recently received a grant of 2 million euros (about $2.2 million) from the European Union. The grant will fund a 12-month "beta" test of a fleet of 20 prototypes. Following that, Riversimple hopes to begin production of customer cars in 2018.


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