Audi drove three ridiculously complex and cool hybrid electric vehicles at the Dakar Rally this year, and after 13 days of racing, the German automaker has a lot to offer.
In terms of stage wins, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz came out on top in the number 202 car, with two finishing first and second, as well as three third. Stefan “Mister Dakar” Peterhansel and co-driver Edouard Boulanger earned themselves a first- and a third-place stage finish and two second-place finishes in the number 200 car. Rounding out the Audi team are Mattias Ekström and co-driver Emil Bergquist in the number 224 car, with one in first, second and third.
However, when the dust settled, Ekstrom and Bergquist proved to be the most consistent, finishing ninth overall with a time of 41 hours, 15 minutes, 14 seconds, nearly 2 hours, 42 minutes ahead of overall winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. and Matthew Baumel. Sainz and Cruz finished 12th overall with a time of 42 hours, 12 minutes, 24 seconds. Peterhansel and Boulanger came in a disappointing 57th place with a time of 106 hours, 45 minutes, 16 seconds. The duo had a disastrous start to the rally when they pulled out the rear end of their RS Q e-tron racer.
Audi is hoping to revolutionize rally with the RS Q e-tron, as it did in 1981 when it introduced the quattro all-wheel-drive system. However, the company knows that current battery technology can’t compete in a long-term, multi-day rally like the Dakar. The range just isn’t there. So the car’s 52-kilowatt-hour battery is charged by a gas-powered 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged engine. Along with that engine is a motor-generator unit that feeds the battery. Two other motor-generator units drive the front and rear wheels. That way, the battery can provide enough power for the steps without pausing to recharge – some of them as long as 500 miles.
Cars are left with a full charge each morning, but it can be difficult to prevent the battery from draining quickly. The majority of the Dakar Rally is spent navigating the dunes, which does a number on the range. The sand provides resistance in the form of lower tire pressure. According to Dakar regulations, Audi’s motor-generator units on the axles must be limited to a total of 288 kWh of power, or 386 horsepower, and the energy converter can only supply 220 kWh of power. While Audi didn’t expect it to use more power than it could generate from the car, there were moments when teams saw a sharp drop in range. However, a complex set of algorithms and engineering magic kept the battery in a fixed position.
Audi hasn’t released any torque numbers for its hybrid race car, but the RS Q e-tron can reportedly accelerate from 0 to 60 mph on loose surfaces in under 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 106 mph is limited. The battery adds an additional 816 pounds to the chassis. The car also gets two electric motors, battery, energy converter, gas-powered engine and six cooling systems for the cabin. The vehicle also has about 2.5 miles of cables, and doesn’t include the 800-volt cable for the battery. I don’t envy the Audi tech with it.
The RS Q e-tron is a beautiful piece of technology, although it still burns dinosaurs to make electricity. Sure, we all want clean power, but getting there is a slow process.
I have promoted two electric vehicles at approved motorsports events.A charge is required during the middle of the day , but I wasn’t rallying for speed, but for navigational accuracy. In volkswagen charged In a trailer during on-road transit phases. In both cases power was provided by a diesel generator, however the charging unit for the Rebel Rally was capable of running on hydrogen power and it was only a logistical problem that prevented it from doing so.
My point here is that Audi is working with the technology that is currently available. It’s not ideal, but it’s just one step on the road to long-range battery.
At the Dakar Rally, teams are tackling a number of new challenges, not just driving an experimental vehicle. Roadbooks were given 15 minutes before the start of the day’s stage. In previous years co-drivers received their books the night before, allowing reviews and notes.
Also, this year the roadbooks were digital. There were two screens in front of the co-drivers. Very rough pictures of the terrain and route are shown on the left. For example, a note might have rocks on one side, represented by irregular circles, and a building on the other, represented by a rectangle. In fact the rocks can be any size and the building can be a shack. If this screen fails, co-drivers have a sealed paper roadbook as a backup. Navigators on the screen on the right could see their directional heading and verification when they reached the virtual waypoint.
This is Audi’s first competing in the Dakar Rally, although it is no stranger to electrified racing. The company won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012 in the R18 e-tron quattro with electrified drivetrain and went on to win in Formula E in 2017 and 2018. In fact, the motor-generator units on the Dakar vehicle are picked up from the current. Audi e-tron FE07 Formula E car – with some minor modifications.