The route no longer goes from Paris through the Sahara, due in large part to ongoing terrorism, but the Dakar Rally remains one of the world’s most punishing automotive tests of any kind. In keeping with everything else it’s done recently from a product-development standpoint, Audi plans to contest the brutal contest’s 2022 running with a from-the-ground-up, fully rally-capable electric vehicle. Following ongoing evaluations in Germany and Spain, Audi Sport landed on the ground last week in Morocco for two weeks of uninterrupted desert trials for its Audi RS Q e-tron rally car. Record-holding Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel, plus rally immortal Carlos Sainz and team driver Mattias Ekström took part in the wringing.
Sandstorms and daytime temperatures that easily cleared 100 degrees Celsius caused several interruptions in the test schedule while the Audi Sort contingent regrouped. One issue that became immediately apparent was maintaining the e-tron’s onboard battery performance in the withering desert heat. The RS Q e-tron features an electric-based drivetrain with two motor-generator units borrowed from their original use in Formula E racing. The high-voltage battery, newly developed by Audi Sport, is charged while driving via an energy converter consisting of an Audi gasoline-fueled TFSI engine originally designed for the German Touring Car Championship wars, and from another, third motor-generator unit.