Audi’s first-ever electric Dakar Rally racer, the Audi RS Q e-tron, is one of the coolest race cars the brand has made in ages. It’s also one of the most technologically advanced race cars it’s ever made. One of the most technically challenging aspects of building the RS Q e-tron was developing a battery pack that can handle the rigors of Dakar.
The battery pack Audi Sport developed is a high-voltage, 52 kWh battery that weighs — with all cooling gear included — 370 kg (815 lbs). Why is the weight important? Because the Dakar Rally governing body has a weight limit on the cars. Which meant that Audi Sport needed to work hard to get the rest of the car to check in under the weight limit. It’s especially tough when you consider the battery is charged by a gasoline engine and on-board energy convertor.
“With our drive configuration in the RS Q e-tron, Audi is a pioneer in the Dakar Rally,” says Lukas Folie, the high-voltage battery engineer. “Defining the challenges for this type of competition was very demanding. There are simply no empirical values in motorsport for such a concept and for this type of endurance competition.”
Audi Sport drivers and engineers also need to be clever in their battery management. Battery usage (accelerating) and battery charging have to be carefully managed over the course of the race, which is tricky due to the ever-changing nature of Dakar. To manage it all, Audi Sport engineers have pre-programmed certain algorithms to deal with certain situations.
Regenerative braking also plays a huge role in battery management. Using the same tech Audi used in Formula E, the RS Q e-tron uses MGU (Motor Generator Units) units, which are placed on the front and rear axles, to convert the wheels’ rotational movement into energy for the battery.
All of this technological know-how is going to be incredibly useful for the brand as a whole. Not only will it help in the world of motorsport but it will also eventually translate to the road. As difficult as these challenges are, the lessons learned will only make Audi’s electric road cars better moving forward.