The Volkswagen group's desire to crush records with electrified cars now extends to one of the world's toughest off-road challenges. Autoblog reports that Audi has started testing the RS Q E-Tron, a from-scratch hybrid off-roader it hopes will score overall victory in the 2022 Dakar Rally. If so, it would be the first electrified vehicle to win the gruelling competition.
The RS Q E-Tron relies on an electric drivetrain with two modified Formula E motors, one at each axle. As you won't find a charging station in the middle of the desert, however, Audi uses a race-ready TFSI engine as part of an energy converter that charges the battery while driving and braking. This isn't a zero-emissions car, then, but it stays in a relatively efficient power band (between 4,500RPM and 6,000RPM) that should reduce the racer's environmental impact.
The machine should be highly adaptable, too. Unlike many EVs, the front and rear axles aren't mechanically connected — software handles torque distribution instead. That not only allows for an easily reconfigurable center differential, but saves the bulk that would normally be used for a conventional differential and propshaft.
Audi plans to enter the machine into multiple cross-country rallies in 2021 before participating in the Dakar Rally in January.
If Audi is successful, the RS Q E-Tron will make a stronger case for eco-friendly endurance racing. While not a pure EV, it will handle extremely long stages (up to 500 miles) with a significantly reduced emissions footprint. It also won't surprise you to hear that Audi wants more than just bragging rights. It expects lessons learned from the car to reach production cars. We wouldn't count on something with a similar drivetrain when the VW group is transitioning to EVs, but it's easy to imagine electric SUVs and crossovers that are better-suited to off-roading.