Audi has unveiled the first images of the all-electric RS Q e-tron car which it will use for its maiden assault on the Dakar Rally in 2022.
The factory-supported Q Motorsport run operation has completed its first roll-out of the new car, which the brand hopes can take the fight to conventionally powered competitors on the classic rally raid in January next year.
Announced at the backend of last year, Audi’s arrival on the Dakar with an electric car marks the first entry to the event using alternative energy.
The prototype, which will compete in the new-for-2022 T1-E class for alternative energy vehicles, had its first run-out in Neuberg at the start of the month ahead of an intensive testing program across the remainder of the year.
“This project’s schedule is extremely packed and challenging,” said Audi’s head of motorsport programs Andreas Roos.
“Less than twelve months have passed since the project officially started. We had to begin the development while the regulations for alternatively powered vehicles had not even been finalized yet.
“All of the development took place during the Corona pandemic. You mustn’t underestimate that either. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone.”
Additionally, the RS Q e-tron takes much of its engineering from the electric single-seater category Formula E, which Audi has also been heavily involved in since 2015. It follows the typical electric vehicle transmission with independent front and rear axles while the car has just one gear. Weight and space are also saved through a configurable center differential instead of propshafts and a mechanical differential.
The RS Q e-tron will produce a maximum system output of 500 kW, with the final available power to be determined by the Dakar organizers, the ASO, in due course. The car will also utilize the efficient TFSI engine, which was developed in line with the successful Le Mans prototype machines and DTM cars since 2001, to provide the necessary efficiencies on the stages in the absence of charging stations.
Stefan Dreyer, Head of Development at Audi Sport for motorsport said: “As engineers, we basically see development potential in every component. But in terms of the drivetrain system, we have already achieved a system efficiency of over 97 percent in Formula E. There’s not much more room for improvement. The situation is quite different with the battery and energy management.
“What we learn from the extremely challenging Dakar project will flow into future production models. As always, we are also working closely with our colleagues from road car development on this project.”
Exactly what follows for Audi in terms of competitive running will depend largely on the progress of the team’s testing program, with Q Motorsport telling DirtFish earlier this year that some of the traditional pre-Dakar Rally events such as the Rallye du Maroc and the Ha’il Baja could be on the cards.
Q Motorsport boss Sven Quandt says the next focus for the project will be building reliability ahead of the Dakar: “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.”