2021 Gumpert Nathalie is the world’s first methanol fuel cell EV

The 2021 Gumpert Nathalie is a different kind of EV. Instead of having a huge and cumbersome battery pack in the floor, it produces electricity via an innovative methanol fuel cell under the hood.

Gumpert + Aiways’ latest creation was supposed to grace the 2020 Geneva Motor Show before the coronavirus began spoiling all the fun. However, no virus is stopping the Nathalie from being the world’s first methanol-powered EV.

2021 Gumpert Nathalie: How does it all work?

We’ll do our best to avoid sounding like a bespectacled boffin so bear with us. The new Gumpert Nathalie is equipped with four electric motors – one in each wheel. Unlike the Toyota Mirai or Japan’s Nano Cellulose Vehicle with hydrogen fuel cells, the Gumpert Nathalie makes use of an innovative methanol fuel cell.

The electric motors draw electricity from Nathalie’s methanol fuel cell, which rests neatly under the hood of the vehicle like a normal combustion engine. The fuel cell is constantly churning out 5 kW of juice, which Gumpert claims is enough power to feed the vehicle with its base energy requirements when driven. However, the Nathalie is still equipped with a small battery that serves as a buffer power source between the electric motors and methanol fuel cells.

Apparently, the fuel cell not only supplies energy to the motors, but it also charges the buffer battery during low-speed city driving or when the car is stationary. This means the vehicle is never short on juice as the battery and fuel cell work together to deliver consistent performance.

Now, the Gumpert Nathalie is configurable with variable-sized battery packs depending on your preference or driving style. The point is you can always fill up the tank with methanol if you’re running out of juice.

What is methanol and how does it power the Gumpert Nathalie?

For clarity’s sake, there are two types of methanol fuel: black and green. Black methanol is petroleum-based and is still considered as fossil fuel. On the other hand, the Gumpert Nathalie is powered by green methanol.

When methanol is produced by using renewable sources like biomass, the result is a renewable or green type of methanol. According to Gumpert, green methanol is synthesized inside the fuel cell by binding CO2 in the air and releasing it again after the energy is utilized. The byproducts of this synthesis are water and CO2, effectively making green methanol as a naturally clean and renewable energy source.

From the looks of it, the Gumpert Nathalie is set to revolutionize the electric car era.

Is it fast?

You bet. With four electric motors churning out 300 – 600 kW, the Gumpert Nathalie is pumping out 536 horsepower. This is enough to propel the vehicle to 60 mph from zero in 2.5-seconds, and you can do it repeatedly without killing the planet. Also, the top speed is 184 mph.

And since there’s a single motor in each wheel, the Gumpert Nathalie is effectively an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Company founder Roland Gumpert used to be the director of Audi Sport and was one of the brains behind the German automaker’s famed Quattro all-wheel-drive system, so the Nathalie has some proper credentials to boot.

Does this mean the Nathalie has virtually endless range?

You can say that, yes. When the tank goes dry, simply fill it up with methanol and you’re good to go. With a full tank of green methanol, the car is good for 510 miles of range. According to Gumpert, the Nathalie is the true embodiment of ‘carefree ecological freedom’ with a cleaner conscience. However, it’s not that easy.

Methanol refueling stations are not as common as gasoline pumps and electric charging stations, but Gumpert has a solution. The company is planning to build a network of methanol filling stations in main cities/countries where the Nathalie is expected to sell well. We’re talking about Poland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Switzerland.

But if you live in an area where methanol refueling stations are not readily available, Gumpert is offering an overnight methanol delivery service, which is free for all Nathalie owners within the first year of ownership.

As expected, the Gumpert Nathalie is a bit pricey

Gumpert is only making 500 units of the Nathalie with base prices starting at $460,000. The Nathalie will make its official debut on March 18 with first deliveries expected in early 2021. The car is equipped with a standard roll cage and carbon-fiber chassis to deliver agile handling on the street or racetrack.

So, is methanol the future of electric vehicles?