The Dakar Rally Audi RS Q e-tron uses electric motors and an RS 5 DTM petrol engine
Audi has taken the wraps off its challenger for the 2022 Dakar Rally: a range-extender electric SUV called the RS Q e-tron.
Under the metal, it combines technology from two previous Audi motorsport programmes. The vehicle is driven by three electric Motor Generator Units (MGUs) of the type used in Audi’s Formula E car, drawing power from a 50kWh battery.
According to Audi Sport’s head of development, Stefan Dreyer: “In terms of the drivetrain, we have already achieved efficiency of over 97 per cent in Formula E. There’s not much room for improvement.
“The situation is different with the battery. This is where the greatest development potential lies, for electromobility in general. What we learn from this extremely challenging project will flow into future production Audi models.”
Charging at regular intervals isn’t possible in the remote desert terrain of the rally, so the RS Q e-tron also has a TFSI petrol engine from the brand’s RS 5 DTM car on board, which charges the battery on the go. Regenerative braking also contributes to keeping the car’s battery topped up on the move.
Maximum power from the electric motors is 670bhp, but according to Audi “how much of this may be used during the Dakar Rally is still being finalised by the organisers”. The power is sent to the wheels through a single forward gear, while the front and rear axles are not mechanically connected. Instead, software manages the torque distribution, creating what Audi describes as “a virtual and freely configurable centre differential, which has the positive effect of [saving] the weight and space required by propshafts and a mechanical differential”.
At the wheel of the RS Q e-trons when the rally kicks off in January 2022 will be Stéphane Peterhansel, (a Dakar winner six times on a bike and eight times in a car), Carlos Sainz (a two-time World Rally Champion and three-time Dakar winner) and Mattias Ekström (a double DTM champion and World Rallycross champion in 2016).