Volkswagen, controlled by the Piëch and Porsche family, might be up to its eyeballs with a scandal involving the suppression of pollution data on many of its cars, but at least one member of the family is thinking about the long term when it comes to saving the world.
Sebastian Piëch - the nephew of the all-powerful Ferdinand Piëch, the architect of much of VW’s success up until the latest scandal - is behind a company called Riversimple. Based in Wales, the company is in the process of making a car that it says will become one of the most environmentally friendly in the world.
Powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, Riversimple cars will emit nothing but a tiny amount of water and will do more than the equivalent of 200 miles per gallon, says the company’s marketing material.
Hugo Spowers, an engineer and former racing car driver, came up with the idea and is leading the initiative. The cars are being designed by Chris Reitz, who was behind the relaunch of the very popular Fiat 500. Sebastian is chairman of the group. He’s also one of its main financial backers through a UK-based family office for members of the Piëch family called bScope Venture.
The Riverside cars are being road tested at the end of 2015 and will go on sale through leasing agreements soon afterwards, says the company.
Meanwhile, Sebastian’s uncle looks to be regaining some of his influence at VW. After been forced to step down as chairman last spring, the 78 year-old has been seen much more around the car maker since the software suppression scandal broke a few weeks ago.
But if tech visionary and CEO of car maker Tesla Elon Musk’s predictions about the demise of the internal combustion engine come true, the rest of the Piëch and Porsche family should be putting more muscle behind Riversimple cars.
Who knows - in 50 years time Riverside could be the next VW...