Audi’s intentions to compete on the earth’s hardest rally utilizing an electrical automotive began 15 months in the past with a white sheet of paper. The corporate shuttered its former rally division again within the late Eighties, and by its personal admission, because of workers attrition, has misplaced almost the entire information 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 harder than seen in standard rallying, so the autos need to be constructed particularly for the duty—mere modified on-road autos received’t lower it. 

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

{Photograph}: Michael Kunkel/Audi Communications Motorsport

Because of the pandemic, with no risk to completely check any gear in race circumstances, Audi’s goal this primary 12 months again in rally sport was merely to complete the Dakar. Nonetheless, midway by way of the occasion, all three automobiles are nonetheless within the working, and the staff has even picked up a win within the 636 km third stage with rally veteran Carlos Sainz driving, on the age of 59. “The largest shock is every part is working,” a staff 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 protected 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. Regardless of being geographically displaced, the identify 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. Profitable the Dakar remains to be prestigious, and 2022 is Audi’s first try.

{Photograph}: Mikel Prieto/Audi Communications Motorsport

However alongside this, Audi is set to develop into a premium electrical model and it needs to win the Dakar with battery energy. That’s extraordinarily difficult, provided that opponents should full as much as 600 miles a day, driving by way of a number of the most distant and inhospitable landscapes on Earth. They barely see a camel, by no means thoughts an EV charger.

However what Audi sees is a chance—an opportunity to experiment with an outdated concept that’s making a comeback: the vary extender. It 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 longer term”: Vauxhall (Buick within the US) and BMW each provided them, whereas Audi developed an idea automotive.

However then the world modified—Tesla got here alongside, battery expertise improved, and out of the blue vary extenders had been outmoded. This makes Audi’s 2022 Dakar entry one thing of an outlier, as a result of it’s the mom of all vary extenders.

Supply By