Audi is planning to make waves in the Dakar Rally next year with a brand new electrified race car with which it will compete for overall victory against today’s internal combustion powered front-runners.
It’s an interesting drivetrain concept, in which the vehicle is driven by a pair of MGU electric motors (one on each axle) that were inherited from the FE07 Formula E car. Feeding them energy is a 50 kWh battery that weighs just 370 kg, and because the Dakar’s daily stages are up to 800 km (obviously with no recharging opportunities), the vehicle is fitted with a 2-litre TFSI turbopetrol engine which pairs with a third MGU motor to act as a generator to increase the driving range.
“That’s a very long distance,” Audi Sport project leader Andreas Roos said in reference to the 800 km stages. “What we are trying to do has never been done before. This is the ultimate challenge for an electric drivetrain.”
Audi says the drivetrain can produce a maximum of 500 kW, although how much of it they’ll get to use depends on yet-to-be-announced regulations. However, the carmaker does believe that the electric motors offer numerous advantages, as they can be controlled very precisely to improve overall driveability.
“Audi has always chosen new and bold paths in racing, but I think this is one of the most complex cars that I have ever seen,” said team principal Sven Quandt. “The electric drivetrain means that a lot of different systems have to communicate with each other. Besides reliability, which is paramount in the Dakar Rally, that’s our biggest challenge in the coming months.”
Audi Sport head Julius Seebach said the RS Q e-tron race car is a ‘clean sheet’ design that was created in record time:
“The quattro was a game changer for the World Rally Championship. Audi was the first brand to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with an electrified drivetrain. Now, we want to usher in a new era at the Dakar Rally, while testing and further developing our e-tron technology under extreme conditions,” Seebach added.
The Audi RS Q e-tron prototype that you see here is set to undergo an intensive testing programme between now and the end of the year. We can’t wait to see it on the Dakar Rally stages next year.
Audi’s all-star driver line-up for next year includes Carlos Sainz Snr, Stéphane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekström.