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About The Foundation


The 40 Fires Foundation is a forum to enable the development of energy efficient cars and other products for the benefit of society and the planet.

The Team #

The Foundation is led by the Board of Trustees. On a day-to-day basis it is currently run by a small team comprising Patrick Andrews and Christian Ahlert, with input and support from the trustees and from friends including Adam Brett and Roland Whitehead. We expect the team to grow over the summer of 2009 as people are invited to participate in the development of the Foundation.

Background and History #

The project was initiated by Hugo Spowers and his team at Riversimple LLP, who have contributed the design of a revolutionary vehicle, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and constructed from composite materials, to 40 Fires.

It all began when Hugo was completing an Executive MBA at Cranfield in 1998-99. As he ruminated over the challenges posed by climate change and peak oil, he became clear about two things: any sustainable system of transport will utilise a combination of all the available powertrains and fuels available, rather than the one-size-fits-all system of oil-based combustion-engined vehicles; and hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to be significantly more energy efficient than any other powertrain and fuel combination for vehicles with a range in excess of 150 miles (240km).

Hugo devised a complete system which he believed could move us systematically towards totally sustainable personal mobility - cars with minimal or zero emissions; fewer cars on the roads; and a human scale auto industry.

His original inspiration was the Hypercar project created by Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountains Institute in the mid 1990’s. Lovins took a ‘whole systems’ design approach to create a lightweight electric network hybrid car, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) and unconstrained by the legacy of design based on combustion engines.

The Hypercar research was placed in the public domain with the expectation that major automobile manufacturers would commercialise this more efficient architecture. These concepts received a great deal of attention at the time but have not been taken up, not surprisingly given the immense constraints that successful players face in a highly mature market when trying to change direction.

Hugo decided to take on the challenge. In partnership with the Piech family and other supporters, he formed Riversimple LLP to bring the technology to market.

He commissioned the experienced racing car designer Andy Thorby to design a city car using this technology. It would have a range of 200 miles, top speed of 50 mph and an energy consumption of 300 mpg. Riversimple has now built a technology demonstrator based on these designs, which will be publicly unveiled on 16 June 2009 in London.

The designs for this car were contributed to 40 Fires by Riversimple in March 2009, with the intention that they be made freely available to the community to share and contribute to.

Structure #

The 40 Fires Foundation is a not-for-profit company. 40 Fires and Riversimple are separately run - having contributed its designs, Riversimple will be just one of what we expect will be a wide network of organisations who contribute to the development of the design. The trustees are obliged by law and by the constitution of the Foundation to treat Riversimple no differently from any other contributor.


The answers to many questions can be found on this website. If you have a question about a project, the easiest way to get to us is to follow this link: get in touch

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« This page (revision-10) was last changed on 15-Nov-2012 16:14 by Nicolas Sergent