The Dakar Rally is one of the most grueling and challenging motorsport events in the world, testing the endurance, skill, and innovation of drivers and teams across thousands of kilometers of harsh terrain. For the 2024 edition, Audi aims to make history by becoming the first car manufacturer to use an electric drivetrain combined with an efficient energy converter system to compete for overall victory at the Dakar Rally. The Audi RS Q e-tron is the result of this ambitious project, a futuristic prototype that combines the best of Audi’s motorsport expertise and technology.
What is the Audi RS Q e-tron?
The Audi RS Q e-tron is an off-road competition car built by Audi under the e-tron battery electric sub-brand. It was specially designed to participate in the rally raids, especially the Dakar Rally, which will take place from January 5 to 19, 2024, in Saudi Arabia. The car is based on the Audi Q e-tron, a production SUV that is part of Audi’s electric vehicle lineup, but with significant modifications and enhancements to suit the demands of the rally.
The Audi RS Q e-tron uses an innovative drivetrain concept that consists of three motor-generator units (MGU), one on each axle and one as part of the energy converter system. The MGUs are derived from Audi’s Formula E program, where the brand has won two drivers’ and two teams’ championships. The MGUs can deliver a combined output of up to 671 horsepower, although the Dakar Rally regulations limit the power to the wheels to around 350 horsepower.
The car is powered by a high-voltage battery that has a capacity of 50 kWh and weighs about 370 kg. The battery is charged while driving via an energy converter system that consists of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder TFSI engine and a third MGU. The engine acts as a generator that produces electricity to replenish the battery. The engine is the same one that Audi used in its DTM racer in 2020, where it achieved more than 600 horsepower. However, for the Dakar Rally, the engine is tuned to produce around 300 horsepower, as the focus is on efficiency and reliability rather than performance.
The energy converter system allows the RS Q e-tron to have a range of up to 800 km, which is essential for the long and remote stages of the Dakar Rally, where no charging stations are available. The system also gives the car a variable and intelligent all-wheel drive, as the front and rear axles are electrically connected and can be controlled independently. This gives the car an advantage in terms of traction, stability, and handling on different types of terrain, such as sand, rocks, gravel, and tarmac.
What are the innovations and improvements of the RS Q e-tron?
The RS Q e-tron is the second evolution of the contender from Audi for the Dakar Rally, following the original version that debuted in 2022. The car has undergone significant improvements and refinements for the 2024 edition based on the feedback and experience from the previous year.
One of the main innovations of the RS Q e-tron is the introduction of a 48-hour marathon stage, where the drivers and co-drivers have to manage their own service and maintenance without the assistance of the team mechanics. This stage will test the durability and reliability of the car, as well as the skills and resourcefulness of the crew. The car has been designed to be robust and easy to repair, with modular components and standardized parts. The car also has a digital service manual that provides instructions and guidance for the crew on how to fix any issues that may arise.
Another innovation of the RS Q e-tron is the use of digital roadbooks, which are electronic devices that display the route and navigation information for the crew.
The RS Q e-tron also features a new body design that improves the weight distribution and airflow of the car. The car has a lower center of gravity and a more aerodynamic shape, which enhances the stability and performance of the car. The car also has a new cooling system that optimizes the temperature of the battery and the engine, which is crucial for the efficiency and longevity of the car. The electric car also has a new suspension system that provides more comfort and control for the crew and a new braking system that recovers energy and reduces wear and tear.