Audi’s EV Dakar Rally Car Is Resurrecting the Range Extender


Audi’s intentions to compete in the world’s hardest rally utilizing an electric car began 15 months in the past with a white sheet of paper. The company shuttered its former rally division again in the late Nineteen Eighties, and by its personal admission, due to employees attrition, has misplaced almost all of the data acquired throughout a interval when Audi received the World Rally Championship each in 1982 and 1984. 

The Dakar rally is a punishing off-road endurance occasion of ridiculous proportions. Distances of every stage can run as much as 900 kilometers (560 miles) per day. The terrain traversed is far more durable than seen in standard rallying, so the autos need to be constructed particularly for the job—mere modified on-road autos received’t minimize it. 

The race originated in December 1977, following an incident the place Thierry Sabine obtained misplaced in the Ténéré desert whereas competing in the 1975 “Cote-Cote” Abidjan-Nice rally. During this unintended diversion, he determined that the desert would make a superb location for an everyday competitors. Some 182 autos took the begin of the inaugural rally in Paris. Only 74 made it via the 10,000 km (6,200 mile) course crossing the Sahara to the Senegalese capital of Dakar.

Photograph: Michael Kunkel/Audi Communications Motorsport

As a results of the pandemic, with no chance to completely check any gear in race situations, Audi’s goal this primary 12 months again in rally sport was merely to complete the Dakar. However, midway via the occasion, all three vehicles are nonetheless in the working, and the group has even picked up a win in the 636 km third stage with rally veteran Carlos Sainz driving, at the age of 59. “The biggest surprise is everything is running,” a group spokesperson tells WIRED.

At first sight, Audi’s 2022 Dakar contender doesn’t have a lot in frequent together with your common household automotive. The RS Q e-tron is a big Tonka Toy, 4.5 meters lengthy and two meters tall. Beneath the Darth Vader bodywork is a tubular body, braced with carbon panels and housing a battery, three electrical motors, and a petroleum engine. It’s secure to imagine nothing like it would ever drive down a avenue close to you.

So why is Audi doing this? It’s partly the status of the Dakar, in fact: Since its beginnings, this occasion has been a byword for journey and the romance of the desert. After initially working from Paris to Dakar, the occasion moved to South America in 2008 following a terrorist assault in North Africa. Despite being geographically displaced, the title remained, and in 2019 the Dakar moved once more, this time to Saudi Arabia, in a bid to conjure again the occasion’s desert origins. Winning the Dakar remains to be prestigious, and 2022 is Audi’s first try.

Photograph: Mikel Prieto/Audi Communications Motorsport

But alongside this, Audi is decided to develop into a premium electrical model and it desires to win the Dakar with battery energy. That is extraordinarily difficult, on condition that rivals should full as much as 600 miles a day, driving via a few of the most distant and inhospitable landscapes on Earth. They barely see a camel, by no means thoughts an EV charger.

But what Audi sees is a chance—an opportunity to experiment with an outdated concept that’s making a comeback: the vary extender. This is a battery-driven electrical automotive that additionally has a petroleum engine onboard, performing as an influence provide. The engine by no means drives the wheels, it simply retains the batteries juiced up as you drive alongside. Ten years in the past, vary extenders had been “the future”: Vauxhall (Buick in the US) and BMW each provided them, whereas Audi developed an idea automotive.


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