Gumpert’s 190mph EV

For­mer Audi Sport boss Roland Gumpert is be­hind a Chi­nese hy­per­car due in 2019

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - LAWRENCE AL­LAN

Ex-audi Sport boss is back

The Gumpert name is re­turn­ing on a fuel-cell sports coupé that’s set to ar­rive in 2019. Af­ter for­mer Audi Sport boss Roland Gumpert parted ways with the Apollo brand in 2016, his lat­est project has gained the back­ing of Chi­nese start-up Ai­ways, for whom he has now taken up the role of chief prod­uct of­fi­cer.

The RG Nathalie, named af­ter Roland’s daugh­ter, has gone from an idea to a work­ing pre-pro­duc­tion pro­to­type in 18 months – im­pres­sive, given the tech­nol­ogy un­der­neath.

Ai­ways stretches the idea of a start-up, hav­ing be­gun with more than £1.3 bil­lion of start­ing cap­i­tal in 2016 and al­ready built a fac­tory in China ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 150,000 cars a year.

The RG Nathalie was cre­ated in tan­dem with Ai­ways’ first mass-pro­duced car, an elec­tric SUV called the U5 Ion. The RG Nathalie’s pro­duc­tion am­bi­tion is more mod­est: around 500 will be pro­duced , with a price tar­get of around €400,000 (roughly £350,000).

Propul­sion is by four Bosch elec­tric mo­tors – two on each axle for four-wheel drive – each pro­vid­ing 137bhp and 170lb ft. Claims for the car’s to­tal sys­tem out­put ap­pear to vary wildly, but Gumpert claims a 0-62mph time of 2.5sec and, with the use of a two-speed gear­box, a 190mph top speed.

What makes the RG Nathalie unique among the many elec­tric hy­per­cars due to ar­rive soon is its method of charg­ing. It has a fuel cell stack, which acts as a sort of range ex­ten­der, and it’s fu­elled by methanol.

A high-tem­per­a­ture cat­alytic re­ac­tion en­ables the fuel cell to ob­tain hy­dro­gen from methanol, a fuel source which is abun­dant, cheap (around a third of the price of petrol) and far eas­ier and safer to store than volatile, un­bound hy­dro­gen. That means most petrol sta­tions could eas­ily sup­ply the fuel. The main down­sides are that con­ven­tion­ally pro­duced methanol isn’t cur­rently CO2 neu­tral, and the fuel cell is gen­er­ally less pow­er­ful.

The fuel cell in the RG Nathalie pro­to­type we’ve been out in (be­low) puts out around 5kw. For what en­gi­neers call ‘reg­u­lar use’, this is fine, as the cell can top up the bat­ter­ies while the car is switched off. But longer-dis­tance use will in­crease the like­li­hood of need­ing to visit a charge point. The man­u­fac­turer claims about 530 miles of range at 50mph, but con­sid­er­ably less if you use all of the car’s per­for­mance.

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