Audi RS Q e-tron: Test laboratory for possible future technologies at the Dakar Rally! Clear the stage for an electrifying high-tech test laboratory: just under a year after the first concept idea, Audi Sport began testing the new Audi RS Q e-tron, with which Audi will face one of the greatest challenges in international racing in January 2022 there: the Dakar Rally.
Audi RS Q e-tron
The specialty: Audi would like to be the first automobile manufacturer with an electrified drive in combination with an efficient energy converter against conventionally powered competitors for the overall victory in the toughest rally in the world. “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 drive. Now we want to usher in a new era at the Dakar Rally and test and further develop our e-tron technology under extreme conditions, ”says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. "Our RS Q e-tron was created on a blank sheet of paper in record time and stands for Vorsprung durch Technik."
The characteristics of the Dakar Rally pose particular challenges for the engineers. The marathon event lasts two weeks, the daily stages are up to 800 kilometers long. “It's a very long distance,” says Andreas Roos, who is responsible for the Dakar project at Audi Sport. “Nobody has tried what we're trying to do. This is the ultimate challenge for an electric drive. "
Because there are no charging stations in the desert, Audi has chosen an innovative charging concept: The highly efficient TFSI engine from the DTM is on board the Audi RS Q e-tron. 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 speed range between 4.500 and 6.000 revolutions per minute, the specific consumption is well below 200 grams per kWh.
The drive train of the Audi RS Q e-tron is electric. A motor-generator unit (MGU) from the current Audi e-tron FE07, which was developed by Audi Sport for the 2021 season, is located on the front and rear axles. Only minor modifications had to be made for use in the Dakar Rally.
A structurally identical third MGU is part of the energy converter and is used to recharge the high-voltage battery while driving. In addition, energy is recuperated when braking. The battery weighs around 370 kilograms and has a capacity of around 50 kWh.
"The battery is also an in-house development that we realized together with a partner," says Stefan Dreyer, Head of Development at Audi Sport for motorsport projects. “As engineers, we generally see development potential in every component. But we have already achieved a system efficiency of over 97 percent for the drive system in Formula E. There is not much leeway left. The situation is completely different with the battery and energy management. This is where electromobility generally has the greatest development potential. What we learn from the extremely challenging Dakar project will be incorporated into future series models. As always, we are working closely with our colleagues from series development on this project. "
The maximum system output of the electric drive is 500 kW. How much of it can be accessed at the Dakar Rally is still to be finalized by the organizers. The electric drive offers many advantages. The electric motors can be controlled extremely precisely and thus ensure good drivability. In addition, braking energy can be recovered.
The Audi RS Q e-tron gets by with one forward gear. As is usually the case with electric vehicles, the front and rear axles are not mechanically connected to one another. The software developed by Audi takes over the torque distribution between the axles and thus creates a virtual, freely configurable center differential - with the positive side effect of being able to save the weight and space required by Karadan shafts and a mechanical differential.
The Audi RS Q is visually different e-tron also clearly different from conventionally powered Dakar prototypes. "The vehicle looks futuristic and has many design elements that are typical of Audi," says Juan Manuel Diaz, Team Leader Motorsport Design at Audi. "Our goal was to symbolize Vorsprung durch Technik and the future of our brand."
It will be used in the Dakar Rally together with Q Motorsport. "Audi has always chosen new, courageous paths in racing, but I think this is one of the most complex cars I've ever seen," says team principal Sven Quandt. “The electric drive means that a great many different systems have to communicate with one another. In addition to reliability, which is the top priority at the Dakar Rally, this will be our greatest challenge over the next few months. "
Quandt compares Audi's Dakar project with the first moon landing: “Back then, the engineers didn't really know what to expect. It's similar with us. If we cross the finish line on the first Dakar outing, that will be a success. "
The prototype of the Audi RS Q e-tron rolled in early July in Neuburg for the first time. An intensive test program and initial test runs in marathon rallies are on the agenda until the end of the year.
"The schedule in this project is extremely sporty and challenging," says Andreas Roos. “Less than twelve months have passed since the official start of the project. We had to start with the development when the regulations for alternatively powered vehicles had not yet been finalized. And all of the development took place during the corona pandemic. That too shouldn't be underestimated. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone. "
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Audi RS Q e-tron: test laboratory for possible future technologies at the Dakar Rally
Photo credit: Audi
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