Wow, wow, wow…Riversimple is not just about redesigning cars and redesigning business…what Hugo and his team have done over the last 15 years is turn how we engage in business upside down. As a follow on to the last episode with Frederic Laloux, Hugo is building a business in a very traditional area (car manufacturing) but turning it completely on its head. No tinkering here. This is a new model. It is quite breathtaking. I want one of his cars, now.

Enjoy this episode.




Founder and Company Architect, for over a decade Hugo has been working on the technology for environmentally sustainable cars and, more importantly, the strategies necessary for making businesses more successful by doing the right thing – turning the step change that is needed into an opportunity rather than a threat.  An Oxford University trained engineer and entrepreneur, he founded and ran a business designing and building racing cars and restoring historic racing cars.  Environmental concerns led him away from motorsport; the focus of his MBA at Cranfield University was a feasibility study into bringing hydrogen fuel cell cars to market.  He founded OSCar Automotive in 2001, which became Riversimple in 2007.  The first fuel cell car to emerge was the LIFECar, developed by a consortium that Hugo brought together with Morgan and presented at the Geneva Motorshow in 2008.  The small Hyrban technology demonstrator followed in 2009.  Hugo is responsible for all the technical aspects of the new car in development and for the architecture of the business itself.

Show notes

*highly efficient, resource neutral cars are entirely possible – the problem is people, politics and business inertia

*First production prototype complete March 2015, beta test late 2015, production 2017

*disruptive shift in technology comes from left field, starts in a niche market and it leads to a change in segmentation of the market; the niche is too small for the incumbent market leader in a mature market (and automotive is the most mature market of all)

*the luxury of a clean sheet of paper allows you to think much more freely, do things that are unthinkable in an established business

*backcasting process …. imagining a future where we have got sustainable transport and planning back from there …. leads you to make very different decisions to forecasting

*Will never sell a car.  Selling mobility as a service rather than a car as a product.  This contract covers literally everything … fuel, insurance, cost of the car …. everything.  This changes completely the drivers for the business – from obsolescence and high running costs to longevity ad low running costs.

*in a sale of product world you are rewarded for resource maximisation ….. the more resources you churn through the more money you make.  Riversimple is rewarded for resource efficiency.

*business model of the last century isn’t well suited to this next century

*information available on a need not to know basis, vs a need to know

*”we are to be the architects of the future, not its victims” R. Buckminster Fuller

*three different levels of design.  D1 is design at the level of product and services, D2 at the level of systems, D3 is design at the level of ideology

*the purpose of Riversimple is “To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport”

*being less unsustainable is still not sustainable

*trying to align the interests of all the actors in the system, rather than focusing on the technology and profit margin and trying to push that into the market

*make more money doing the right thing

*Cannot have a sustainable industrial society based on rewarding industry for the opposite of what we are trying to achieve

*Open sourcing the technology

*don’t buy fuel cells for the car from suppliers but instead pay for kilowatt hours – buying the service rather than the product

*explicit about the fact that Riversimple does not want people to take the car through environmental guilt, but because they want it

*can’t maximise the goodwill of stakeholders if their interests are subordinated to the interest of the shareholders

*6 different stakeholder groups. The investors, the environment, the customers, the staff, the commercial partners, the community (no direct commercial relationship)

*the fiduciary responsibility of the board is to pursue the purpose (as above) whilst balancing and protecting the 6 benefit streams of the custodians

*answering the need for control in a different way

*have to get very used to being told it can’t be done

*whole systems design – don’t optimise by looking at a bit of the car, need to look at the whole system

*trying to fit a radical idea into an old context will not work

*if we had tried to do this quicker we would have failed

*to change things and implement a new model rebelliousness and courage are required




Steve Evans, Professor at Cambridge

Sebastian Piech, Chairman

Joanna Macy, 3 Levels of Change



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