Audi Sport is at it again. Since the launch of the quattro all-wheel-drive system and all the innovations that have followed suit by Audi, this German vehicle motor manufacturer have blown the opposition away, whether in the World Rally Championship, Sports Car Racing or Touring Cars.
Audi have always been a surprise package. Now they are on project Dakar Rally. Clear the stage for Audi’s electrifying high-tech test laboratory. Just under a year after the initial concept idea, Audi Sport has started testing the new Audi RS Q e-tron, with which Audi will take on one of the greatest challenges there is in international racing in January 2022.
The Dakar Rally.
What makes this project so unique is that Audi wants to be the first car manufacturer to use an electrified drive train in combination with an efficient energy converter to compete for overall victory against conventionally powered competitors.
“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,” said Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi.
The characteristics of the Dakar Rally present the engineers with special challenges. The marathon event lasts two weeks and the daily stages are up to 800 kilometers in length. Because there are no charging opportunities in the desert, Audi has chosen an innovative charging concept.
On board of the Audi RS Q e-tron, there is a highly efficient TFSI engine from the DTM (German Touring Car championship). It is part of an energy converter that charges the high-voltage battery while driving.
Since the combustion engine is operated in the particularly efficient range of between 4 500 and 6 000rpm, the specific
consumption is well below 200 grams per kWh. The drivetrain of the Audi RS Q e-tron is electric. The front and rear axles are both 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.
Only minor modifications had to be made to use the MGU in the Dakar Rally. A third MGU, of identical design, is part of the energy converter and serves to recharge the high-voltage battery while driving. In addition, energy is recuperated during braking. The battery weighs about 370 kilograms and has a capacity of around 50kWh.
The maximum system power of the e-drivetrain is 500kW. How much of this may be used during the Dakar Rally is still
being finalized by the organizers. The electric drivetrain offers many advantages. The electric motors can be controlled with extreme precision and can thus ensure good drivability. In addition, braking energy can be recovered.
The Audi RS Q e-tron only needs one forward gear. The front and rear axles are not mechanically connected. The software developed by Audi takes over the torque distribution between the axles and thus creates a virtual and freely configurable center differential, which has the positive side effect of being able to save the weight and space that would have been required by prop shafts and a mechanical differential.
Visually, the Audi RS Q e-tron also differs significantly from conventionally powered Dakar prototypes. The Dakar Rally entry is being run in conjunction with Q Motorsport.
“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,” says 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.”
Quandt compares 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 already will be a success.”
The prototype of the Audi RS Q e-tron had its first roll-out in Neuburg at the beginning of July. An intensive test program and the first test entries at cross-country rallies are on the agenda from now until the end of the year.