German automaker Audi is to bring its new Audi RS Q e-tron to the January 2022 Dakar Rally in an effort to become the first car manufacturer to use an electrified drivetrain paired with an efficient energy converter in the world’s toughest rally.
The two-week rally, which was first run in 1979 and traversed a gruelling journey from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, is one of the greatest challenges in international racing, with daily stages up to 800-kilometres in length.
The 2022 Dakar Rally will travel around Saudi Arabia beginning on January 2 and will serve as a testbed for Audi and its new Audi RS Q e-tron.
Audi was the first carmaker to win the Le Mans 24 Hours race with an electrified drivetrain, when in the early 2010s the Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid walked away winner three years in a row – to be followed by six more years of hybrid wins thanks to Porsche and Toyota.
“The quattro was a gamechanger for the World Rally Championship. Audi was the first brand to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with an electrified drivetrain,” said Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi.
“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.
“Our RS Q e-tron was created on a blank sheet of paper in record time and stands for Vorsprung durch Technik” – German for “lead by technology”.
As the race is across the desert, there will not be any handy EV chargers located at a convenient oasis, so Audi will also be testing an innovative charging concept – combining a TFSI engine from the Audi DTM touring car that will charge the 50kW high-voltage battery while driving.
The detuned 200kW DTM engine is highly efficient, running between 4,500 and 6,000 rpm. This, in turn, will power the electric drivetrain.
Both the front and rear axles of the Audi RS Q e-tron are fitted with a motor-generator unit (MGU) from the current Audi e-tron FE07 Formula E car which has been developed by Audi Sport for the 2021 season. A third MGU is also fitted and will help transfer the energy generated by the petrol engine to the battery.
Team principal Sven Quandt compared Audi’s Dakar project to the first moon landing: “Back then, the engineers didn’t really know what was coming. It’s similar with us. If we finish the first Dakar event, that’s already a success.”