Collision Course

Wed, 07/01/2009 - 5:50am

Parmy Olson - June 29, 2009

LONDON -- Hugo Spowers is an inventor with a dream -- perhaps an impossible one.

After nearly a decade of mighty labor and no little expense, he has built a hydrogen-fuel cell car--albeit one so tiny it's more like a buggy. If the money holds out, he intends to make 50 more of them and then test market the Riversimple Urban Car by leasing it out to residents in a British city center in just three years. "It's the most exciting opportunity I've come across in my life," enthuses Spowers, an excitable British auto engineer who started his carmaker Riversimple 10 years ago, with the idea of inventing a cheap and environmentally-friendly car. "We're going to see more change in the next 10 years in the auto industry than in the last 80."

Unlike Don Quixote, who tilted at a glamorized fictional past, Spowers is jousting with the future. But will that day ever come? Many industry experts dismiss hydrogen fuel cells as far too expensive and impractical -- a realization years away, if at all. There are already far bigger players in this game like Honda and Daimler, with lots more staying power than Riversimple.

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