The Audi RS Q e-tron is an electrical and high-tech test laboratory. Less than a year after the original concept idea, Audi Sport started testing the new RS Q e-tron, which will participate in one of the most challenging races in the world - the Dakar Rally in January 2022.

Audi wants to be the first automaker to use an electrified driveline combined with an efficient energy converter (TFSI) to fight for an overall victory over conventionally driven competitors in one of the world's toughest rally races. First, Quattro was a game-changer at the world rally championship. Then, Audi was the first brand to win Le Mans 24 Hours with an electrified driveline. Now Audi wants to lead in a new era at the Dakar Rally 2022 while testing and further developing the Audi e-tron technology under extreme conditions.

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Visually, the Audi RS Q e-tron differs considerably from traditional Dakar Rally prototypes. The Audi RS Q e-tron looks futuristic, and it has many design elements that represent the brand.

The main characteristic of the Dakar Rally is the unique challenges for engineers. The race lasts two weeks, and the daily stages are up to 800 kilometres long. Audi is trying to do something that has never been done before. This race is the ultimate challenge for an electric driveline.

Because there are no charging options in the desert, Audi has chosen an alternative and innovative charging concept. Onboard, the Audi RS Q e-tron is the highly efficient TFSI engine from DTM. It is part of an energy converter that charges the high voltage battery while driving.

The driveline in the Audi RS Q e-tron is electric. The front and rear axles are equipped with an engine generator from the current Audi e-tron FE07 Formula E racer, which Audi Sport developed in 2021. Only minor changes had to be made to use the engine generator in the Dakar Rally.

A third and identical motor-generator is part of the energy converter and recharges the high voltage battery while driving. In addition, some energy is recovered by braking. The battery weighs approximately 370 kg and has a capacity of 50 kWh. The battery is also internally developed together with a partner.

The maximum system power of the electric driveline is 500 kW. How much of this will be used during the Dakar Rally 2022 is still being decided by the organizers. The electric driveline offers many advantages, as the electric motors can be controlled highly accurately and thus can ensure reliable driving characteristics. In addition, braking energy can be collected and recycled.

The Audi RS Q e-tron only needs forward gear, and the front and rear axles are not mechanically connected (a common practice in electric vehicles). Audi's in-house software takes over the torque distribution between the axles and thus creates a virtual and freely configurable centre differential, saving the weight and space that would otherwise be required for drive shafts and a mechanical differential.

Audi's participation in the Dakar Rally 2022 is managed together with Q Motorsport. "Audi has always chosen new and bold paths in motorsport, but this is one of the most complex cars I have ever seen," says team manager Sven Quandt. "The electric driveline means that many different systems have to communicate with each other. In addition to reliability, which is crucial in the Dakar Rally, it is our biggest challenge in the coming months."

Quandt compares the Audi Dakar project to the first lunar landing: "Back then, engineers did not really know what to expect, and it's the same for us. If we complete the first Dakar Rally, it will already be a success."

The Audi RS Q e-tron prototype was rolled out from Neuburg (Germany) in early July. The schedule now includes an intensive test program and the first test runs in the terrain rally until the end of the year.

"The schedule in the project is extremely tight and challenging," says Andreas Roos. "It has been less than twelve months since the project officially started. We had to start the development even before the regulations for alternatively propelled cars were established." @via Audi.

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