The Audi RS Q e-tron — the brand’s electric Dakar racer — has been undergoing extreme testing in a Moroccan desert, preparing for its January 2022 debut.
Almost two weeks were spent in Morocco, testing the Audi RS Q e-tron in the most extreme conditions, to see how it handled the heat and the heavy sandstorms. Dakar rally winners, and RS Q e-tron drivers, Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, and Mattias Ekström, were in Morocco too, testing themselves as well as the car. Additionally, their co-drivers, Edouard Boulanger, Lucas Cruz, and Emil Bergkvist, were also along for the ride.
The conditions in the Moroccan desert were extreme, to say the least. “The thermometer climbed to well over 40 degrees Celsius at times, (104 degrees Fahrenheit)” says Sven Quandt, team principal of Q Motorsport. “Sandstorms also hampered the testing. In addition, as expected, some new problems arose in the high temperatures, which repeatedly caused interruptions to the testing and needed to be solved before the next test.”
While temperatures won’t be as extreme during the actual Dakar rally, Audi wanted to make sure the RS Q e-tron could handle anything.
“We expect much lower temperatures at the Dakar Rally,” says Andreas Roos, head of factory racing for Audi Sport. “Nevertheless, we deliberately went to Morocco to test our concept under the most extreme conditions. Components such as the MGU, for example, 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. The insights we gained in Morocco are invaluable, but they also show us that we still have a lot to do before the Dakar Rally and there is not much time left.”
The most important aspect of the car that needed testing was the battery. EV batteries tend to function poorly in extreme heat, so advanced thermal management is necessary and one of the technologies tested in Morocco.
“It’s all about optimum temperature management and being able to call up the battery’s maximum performance,” says Roos. “This is where we are learning with every test. And that’s exactly why we are going to the desert with an electrified drivetrain: We are gaining an incredible amount of experience that we are sharing with our colleagues from road car development.”
Powering the Audi RS Q e-tron is a dual-motor electric powertrain developed from Audi’s Formula E race car. Total system power is a whopping 670 horsepower and it’s powered by a battery, which gets its energy from a TFSI engine and energy converter. While that doesn’t make it a pure BEV, there aren’t any charging stations in the desert, so it’s not like they can charge it up during Dakar. Still, it’s an incredibly impressive machine and one that can obviously handle anything you can throw at it.