Just a year after the idea that gave rise to the initial concept, Audi Sport the testing phase of the new Audi RS Q e-tron with which the brand with the four rings will face in January 2022 one of the greatest challenges that exist in international motorsport competitions: the Rally Dakar.
Audi wants to become the first car manufacturer to use an electrified powertrain in conjunction with an efficient power converter to compete for victory against conventional powered vehicles in the toughest rally in the world.
“The quattro traction changed the rules of the game in the World Rally Championship, and Audi was the first brand to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an electrified prototype. Now we want to usher in a new era in the Dakar Rally, as we test and develop our e-tron technology in extreme conditions ”, said Julius Seebach, Director of Audi Sport GmbH and Head of Motorsport at Audi. "Our RS Q e-tron has been developed from a blank sheet in record time, and represents the cutting edge of the art."
The characteristics of the Dakar pose a special challenge for the engineers. The marathon event lasts two weeks, with daily stages of up to 800 kilometers. “It is a very long distance. What we are going to try has never been done before, we are facing the greatest challenge for an electric propulsion system "He said Andreas roos, responsible for the Dakar Project at Audi Sport.
Since there are no opportunities to recharge the battery in the desert, the brand with the four rings has opted for an innovative concept: On board the Audi RS Q e-tron the TFSI engine from the DTM is installed, which is part of an energy converter system responsible for recharging the high-voltage battery while driving.
Both the front and rear axles are fitted with a motor-generator unit (MGU) like those used by the current one. Audi e-tron FE07 developed by Audi Sport for the 2021 season of the Formula E. For use in the Dakar Rally, the MGU has only required minimal adaptations.
A third MGU unit with the same design is part of the power converter and is used to recharge the high-voltage battery while driving. In addition, the vehicle has an energy recovery system during braking. The battery weighs around 370 kilograms and has a capacity of 50 kWh.
"The battery is also our own development that we have carried out together with a partner", Explain Stefan dreyer, Head of Project Development for Audi Sport Competition. “As engineers, we basically consider the growth potential of each component. But when it comes to the powertrain, in Formula E we have already achieved an efficiency of more than 97%, and there is not much room for improvement. The situation, however, is different with regard to the battery and the energy management system: this is where the greatest potential for the development of electric mobility in general lies. What we learn from the demanding Dakar project we can apply to our future road cars. As always, on this path we also work closely together with our serial production vehicle development colleagues. "
The maximum power of the electric powertrain is 500 kW (680 hp). The Dakar Rally organization is still finalizing the power that can be used during the race. The electric powertrain offers many advantages, as the electric motors allow for very precise management, ensuring ease of driving. In addition, it is possible to recover energy in the braking phases.
The Audi RS Q e-tron just need a forward gear. As in the brand's electric vehicles, there is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles. The software developed by Audi is responsible for distributing the torque between the axles, acting as a freely configurable virtual center differential, which has the positive side effect of saving the weight and space that the drive shafts and a rear axle would have required. mechanical differential.
Visually, the Audi RS Q e-tron is also very different from the rest of the Dakar prototypes with conventional powertrains. "The vehicle has a futuristic look and features many brand-signature design elements," says Juan Manuel Diaz, Head of the Audi Motorsport Design Department. "The aim was to symbolize our slogan At the Forefront of Technology and the future of Audi."
Participation in the Dakar Rally will be carried out in collaboration with Q Motorsport. "Audi has always chosen bold new roads in racing, but I think this is one of the most sophisticated cars I have ever seen." ensures the team manager, Sven Quandt. “The electric propulsion system requires communication between many different systems. In addition to reliability, which is key in the Dakar Rally, that is our biggest challenge for the coming months ”. Quandt compares Audi's project for the Dakar to the arrival of man on the moon: “At that time, the engineers did not know what was really going to happen. In our case something similar happens. If we make it to the finish in our first Dakar participation, it will already be a success ”.
The Audi RS Q e-tron prototype carried out its first real test in early July. From now until the end of the year there will be an intensive testing program, as well as the first participations in cross-country rallies.
"The agenda is extremely compressed and it is a challenge", Roos comments. “Since the project officially started, less than a year has passed. We had to start development without the regulations of the race for vehicles with alternative propulsion systems having been specified, and we must not forget that the whole process took place during the coronavirus pandemic. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The start of the dynamic tests was a very special moment for everyone ”.