Roland Gumpert, the German-based brand backed by Chinese EV start-up Aiways, is seeking industry support to help realise its ambition to put the long-awaited Nathalie methanol fuel-cell sports EV into production.
The firm, led by the renowned ex-Audi engineer of the same name, had planned to build 500 examples of the Nathalie, with deliveries proposed for early 2021. However, it is likely the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up significant road blocks.
"We feel left alone by politics and the economy," Gumpert said in a statement. "We are looking for powerful partners with whom we can spread this new, ground-breaking technology. We can also imagine participation from the federal or state governments."
"Our technology offers long ranges with short refuelling times, a simple infrastructure. [It] is CO2-neutral and completely harmless thanks to the use of green methanol," he said. "With the methanol fuel cell, we have managed to develop a safe energy concept from hydrogen. We generate electricity without risk and in an environmentally neutral way - and even less risky than any petrol-powered car."
Roland Gumpert has already secured a partner for the mass production of its methanol fuel cells: Danish firm Blue World Technologies.
Once production starts, the first Nathalie models to be sold will be in €407,000 (£353,520) First Edition guise, which has a bespoke paint scheme. Revealed in prototype form in 2018, the Nathalie is equipped with a 15kW fuel cell that generates electricity by converting methanol to hydrogen.
The cell sends power via a pair of synchronised two-speed gearboxes to four wheel-mounted electric motors that, with a combined output of 536bhp, propel the Nathalie from standstill to 62mph in 2.5sec and on to a claimed top speed of 186mph.
The unusual choice of powertrain is said to allow greater ease of use, removing the need to visit specialist hydrogen fuelling stations and with a claimed refuelling time of three minutes – significantly less than even the fastest-charging conventional EV. Gumpert claims a range of over 500 miles between fill-ups.
The production car’s styling remains true to that of the 2018 concept. The thin headlight clusters, gaping air intakes and rakish, coupé-style silhouette remain, as does the downforce-enhancing rear spoiler.
However, the concept’s conventional doors have made way for Lamborghini-style scissor doors that are said to be more in keeping with the Nathalie’s "super-sport car genes".
Although it is road legal, the Nathalie is prepared for track usage, with a full FIA-approved roll cage in place of a rear bench. Extensive use of materials such as flax and carbonfibre ensures maximum lightness.