Audi is no stranger to innovation and challenges. The German automaker has a long history of success in motorsports, from Le Mans to Formula E. Now, Audi is taking on the world’s toughest desert rally with its electric rally car, the Audi RS Q e-tron.
The Audi RS Q e-tron is a unique prototype that combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and an energy converter system based on the TFSI engine and a generator. The goal is to create a low-emission vehicle that can handle the extreme conditions and long distances of the Dakar Rally, which will take place in January 2024 in Saudi Arabia.
What makes the Audi RS Q e-tron special?
The Audi RS Q e-tron is not a conventional electric car. It does not rely on charging stations or external power sources to recharge its battery. Instead, it uses a highly efficient TFSI engine from the DTM racing series to generate electricity on board. The engine runs at a constant speed of about 4,500 rpm, regardless of the driving situation, to optimize fuel consumption and emissions.
The electricity produced by the engine and the generator is stored in a high-voltage battery that weighs about 370 kilograms and has a capacity of about 50 kWh. The battery powers two electric motors, one on each axle, that provide a combined output of up to 500 kW (680 hp). The electric motors also act as generators during braking, recovering energy and feeding it back to the battery.
The Audi RS Q e-tron has a sophisticated torque vectoring system that distributes the power between the front and rear wheels and between the left and right wheels, depending on the terrain and the driving situation. This allows optimal traction and handling on sand, gravel, rocks, and other surfaces.
The Audi RS Q e-tron also has a sophisticated cooling system that ensures the optimal temperature of the battery, the electric motors, the engine, and the electronics. The cooling system uses a combination of air, water, and glycol to dissipate heat and prevent overheating.
What are the improvements for 2024?
Audi has again improved the RS Q e-tron for its third outing in the Dakar Rally. The rally car has received innovations in many areas based on the analysis and feedback from previous editions. The new ideas make the RS Q e-tron safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and a little lighter, as well as have shorter maintenance times for the team.
Some of the key improvements are:
- Safety: The RS Q e-tron has a longer carbon-fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) crash box at the front end of the chassis structure, which absorbs more energy in case of a hard frontal landing or a rollover. The springs, dampers, and the bump stop in the suspension have been revised to reduce the peak vertical acceleration during landings after big jumps. The foam in the seats has also been optimized to distribute the loads on the driver and co-driver over a longer period and reduce peak loads.
- Reliability: The RS Q e-tron has a new gearbox with a different gear ratio and a stronger casing, improving the drivetrain's durability and performance. The electric motors have also been upgraded with new bearings and seals, increasing their dust and water resistance. The high-voltage battery has a new management system that monitors the state of charge, the temperature, and the voltage of each cell and balances them accordingly. The battery also has a new cooling circuit that improves the efficiency and longevity of the system.
- Comfort: The RS Q e-tron has a new cockpit layout that enhances the ergonomics and the visibility of the driver and co-driver. The steering wheel, the pedals, the seats, and the dashboard have been adjusted to suit the preferences and the feedback of the crew. The cockpit also has a new ventilation system that improves the air quality and the temperature inside the car.
- Weight: The RS Q e-tron has reduced its weight by about 50 kilograms thanks to the use of lighter materials and components, such as carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. The weight reduction also improves the handling and the performance of the car, as well as the fuel consumption and emissions.
- Maintenance: The RS Q e-tron has a new modular design that allows for easier and faster access to the main components, such as the battery, the electric motors, the gearbox, and the engine. This reduces the maintenance time and the risk of errors during the service. The RS Q e-tron also has a new diagnostic system that provides real-time data and alerts to the team, which helps to prevent and solve potential issues.
What are the challenges and the goals for 2024?
The Audi RS Q e-tron faces a formidable challenge in the 2024 Dakar Rally, which is considered the ultimate test of endurance and versatility for man and machine. The rally will cover about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles) in 12 stages across some of the world's most diverse and demanding landscapes. The rally will feature sand dunes, rocky mountains, dry riverbeds, salt flats, and more.
The Audi RS Q e-tron will have to cope with high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds, dust, and variations in altitude, terrain, and speed. The rally will also require a careful balance between performance and efficiency, as the RS Q e-tron will have to manage its energy consumption and its fuel consumption while also competing against other vehicles with different technologies and regulations.
The Audi RS Q e-tron has a clear goal for the 2024 Dakar Rally: to demonstrate its potential and to fight for top positions. The rally car has already proven its capabilities with six stage victories and 22 other single-day podium results at the Dakar Rally since 2022. Now, it is a matter of showing its performance as steadily as possible and overcoming the challenges and uncertainties of the rally.
The Audi RS Q e-tron is not only a rally car but also a pioneer and a vision for the future of mobility. The rally car showcases the possibilities and benefits of electric mobility and Audi's innovation and expertise. The rally car also represents Audi's values and spirit: progress, courage, and passion.
The Audi RS Q e-tron is ready for Dakar 2024. Are you?