Audi counts down to giving electrified race car the ultimate Dakar acid test

The Dakar Rally is one gruelling way to test and promote your electrified drivetrains, which is precisely why Audi has dived in head first.

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Mike Costello
Mike Costello
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Audi is edging closer to putting a jump-ready, range-extender hybrid race car through its paces in the gruelling Dakar Rally to be held during January 2022.

Proper tests are planned for the middle of this year, Audi said, adding it’s the first manufacturer to shoot for an overall Dakar win with such an electrified powertrain.

While we don’t typically cover racing, the potential road car applications of battle-hardened hybrid tech seem obvious.

Audi’s 2022 Dakar Rally car will use its Formula E motor generator units (MGU) on both axles, with a third employed as a generator for the in-house battery to be charged up by a TFSI turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine.

The Ingolstadt marque also this week announced it would field three driver and co-driver pairings in the event, part of what it bills an attempt to “herald [an] energy revolution in cross-country rallying”.

The drivers will be none other than 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel, two time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz Sr, and two-time DTM champion (and World RallyCross driver) Mattias Ekström.

“With the Dakar project, we at Audi remain true to our philosophy of using new technologies in motorsport for the first time that are groundbreaking for future road cars,” said Audi Sport GmbH managing director Julius Seebach.

“In our rally history, for example, this was the quattro drivetrain, and now we will test components for future electric drivetrains under extreme conditions at the Dakar Rally.”

“Of course, we have to make modifications, because the desert has different challenges than in the cities where we are currently racing in Formula E: jumps, sand, the very long stages,” added project manager Andreas Roos.

“But we can basically build on the expertise from Formula E and also from our Le Mans prototypes with the e-tron quattro.”

“The important thing is: our drivetrain is fully electric. The TFSI engine is only used to charge the batteries on the special stages. The battery has to be charged while driving, as there are currently no other options to do so in the desert.”

Audi plans to run fully electric on all the liaison stages, so it says.

Commenting on the attempt, Dakar legend Peterhansel said the race was “one of the last adventures in this world… and on the verge of a radical change”.

“The future is electric. In ten years, everyone will be driving electric cars. The Dakar is an extreme test for this technology. We want to be the first team to win the Dakar Rally with an electric powertrain. I’m looking forward to tackling this very ambitious project with Audi.”

“The Dakar is the ultimate challenge for an electric powertrain. It is a fantastic, extreme project. I can’t wait to test the car for the first time. What I’ve seen so far gives me confidence,” added Sainz.

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Mike Costello
Mike Costello
Mike Costello is the News Editor at CarExpert.
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