SButterfly doors, bucket seats, the steering wheel as in a Formula 1 racing car, a three-part cockpit display, FIA-certified roll cage – the blood pressure rises when you put on the racing belts. Ready to go. Put your foot on the brake and press the red start button on the steering wheel.
Electronic systems start up with a low hum, and a pump starts work. We press “D” on the keyboard of the drive switch and roll almost silently from the yard. Then the blood pressure drops into the basement. Because noiseless driving doesn’t turn on, it’s not sexy. In Ingolstadt’s city traffic, we jerk from traffic light to traffic light, actually just like in any other electric car. Up to the Ingolstadt-Süd motorway junction.
Get into the fast lane, hit the gas – sorry, hit the accelerator – and then it takes the driver’s breath away. An explosive onset of thrust sits in our necks, 1000 Nm torque is available, constant, a non-breaking pulling power, there are 544 HP (400 kW) hanging on the right foot. Only a few and extremely expensive super sports cars with combustion engines push the pace in a comparable way. At 170 km / h a quiet “click”, the Nathalie has engaged second gear without any interruption in tractive power. Instead of the engine sound, we hear dull rolling noises and a few whistling wind noises.
The father of this electric sports coupé is Roland Gumpert, a visionary well-known in the industry. It promises an acceleration from standstill to 100 km / h in 2.5 seconds, which the 1.8-ton two-seater can only achieve with all-wheel drive. We experience the enormous thrust up to well over 200 km / h. Even in these spheres the emphasis does not cease. The traffic does not allow the top speed of 300 km / h.
Now at the latest, proponents of electromobility throw in that such highly dynamic driving styles are not good for cars. Because their battery is sucked empty in a few minutes and the subsequent charging stop takes longer than the short-term driving pleasure. To refute this very argument, Gumpert developed his two-seater.
The delicately built, only 1.31 meters flat Gumpert Nathalie carries a body, its load-bearing parts, on a traffic area 4.37 meters long and 2.08 meters wide above an extremely light and torsion-resistant chassis made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) half are also made of carbon. The other half is made up of attachments made from a recyclable composite material. It is made from hemp glued with synthetic resin and forms the front hood, fenders, rear apron, floors and interior panels.
Four electric motors, each with an output of 136 HP (100 kW), draw electricity from a T-shape in the center tunnel and a battery installed behind the seats. Its capacity of 60 kWh allows a range of 100 to 350 kilometers, depending on the driving style, before the driver has to put his feet in his stomach at a charging station. Normally, but Gumpert sees the long loading times as unreasonable travel interruptions and is doing away with some of them. His solution: recharging is on the way. Using a fuel cell with an efficiency of 45 percent as a range extender, it promises up to 820 kilometers.
While driving or parking
The Danish Blue World Technologies in Aalborg produces compact fuel cells for automotive applications. She builds one with 15 kilowatts to match the Nathalie. But hydrogen fueling is a thorn in Gumpert’s side: Generating the H2 on board, converting it into electricity and feeding it into the battery is his solution.
Gumpert devises what he calls a recipe for cooking and aims to: A reformer, which is connected upstream of the fuel cell, converts aqueous methanol, which is mixed in equal parts with water, into hydrogen. Without having to deal with explosive chemicals, because industrially produced methanol is comparatively harmless in this regard. The hydrogen produced releases electrical energy in the fuel cell and charges the high-voltage battery. While driving or parking. The reformer and fuel cell form a closed unit and are installed in the front of the car. The tank holds 65 liters; Gumpert supplies its customers with the methanol free of charge in the first year. Nathalie limits her top speed to 120 km / h when more power is required than the fuel cell and battery can deliver together, a situation that, according to Gumpert, rarely occurs.
Roland Gumpert believes in the future of his drive system, which can be easily adapted to passenger cars of all classes. The blueprint for a limousine is already available. However, the manufacturing capacities at Gumpert in Ingolstadt are initially only sufficient for a maximum of 500 Nathalies in four years. At a price of 407,000 euros plus taxes, it starts with 20 units of the First Edition. The first will be in customer hands from the beginning of 2021. There are numerous pre-orders, says Gumpert, including the 15,000 euro deposit.
Why don’t established German automobile manufacturers favor a comparable solution? Roland Gumpert looks up at the sky, ponders the power of the hydrogen lobby and answers the question briefly and meaningfully: “Because they are sleeping!” It is difficult to say whether that is the only reason. Critics of the methanol concept argue that the calorific value per liter is only about half that of gasoline. During the reforming process, carbon dioxide is released. And if the methanol is to be produced from environmentally friendly synthesis gas, then hydrogen is needed again.