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Extreme testing of RS Q e-tron part of brand’s electromobility development

Audi is well on its way to debut in the legendary Dakar Rally next year with the Audi RS Q e-tron, the first electrified car to challenge for overall victory at the world’s most grueling motorsport event. Audi’s participation at the Dakar Rally is intended as a development program and is one of the pillars in the brand’s transition toward electromobility.   

Audi has been accelerating its electrification roadmap and company-wide decarbonization program as it targets to be completely carbon-neutral by 2050. By 2025, the company plans to have more than 20 fully and 10 partially electric models accounting for 40% of its sales. It also intends to reduce by 30%, when compared to 2015 levels, the carbon footprint of its vehicle fleet across the entire lifecycle. 

Also forming a part of Audi’s strategy is taking part in the Dakar Rally using a unique concept. The Audi RS Q e-tron has an electric powertrain with two 250 kW motor-generator units (MGU) taken from the brand’s Formula E racecar. One MGU is mounted on the front axle and the other on the rear axle, providing an electric quattro drive. Each of the MGUs weighs less than 35 kilograms and achieve an efficiency rating of 97% — impressive proof of Audi’s electric mobility performance. A third MGU paired with a highly efficient Audi TFSI internal-combustion engine functions as an energy converter that recharges the car’s high-voltage battery on-the-go. 

To simulate the demanding conditions of the Dakar Rally, Audi recently subjected the Audi RS Q e-tron to an extensive two-week testing program in the desert and sand dunes of Morocco — which followed similar development work in Germany and Spain. All three of Audi’s powerhouse driver pairings for the Dakar Rally campaign, namely Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, Mattias Ekstrom, Edouard Boulanger, Lucas Cruz and Emil Bergkvist, tested the highly complex prototype.

“Some of the conditions the test team encountered in Morocco were extreme — the thermometer climbed to well over 40 degrees Celsius at times,” said Sven Quandt, team principal of Audi’s Q Motorsport division. “Sandstorms also hampered the testing. In addition, some new problems arose in the high temperatures, which repeatedly caused interruptions to the testing and needed to be solved before the next test.”

Quandt noted that while much lower temperatures are expected at the Dakar Rally, Audi deliberately went to Morocco to test under the most extreme conditions. Components such as the MGU were basically not developed for use in such high ambient temperatures, but the drivetrain and other components were also pushed to their limits, or even beyond, by the heat. 
Quandt said the insights gained in Morocco are invaluable as these showed Audi still have a lot to do before the Dakar Rally.

As Audi holds the RS Q e-tron’s test program, Audi Sport — the brand’s high-performance division — has already started building the first car intended for competition. Though the test car is a prototype that is still being developed, the company is ensuring that the knowledge acquired from testing will result in actual competition cars that are absolutely perfect. The experience gained from the Dakar Rally challenge will then be applied in technologies for other upcoming fully electric e-tron production cars.

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