The 671-HP Audi RSQ E-Tron Is One Hardcore Electrified Racing Machine

The 671-HP Audi RSQ E-Tron Is One Hardcore Electrified Racing Machine

07/26/2021

Audi’s all-wheel-drive Quattro rally car was a game-changer at the World Rally Championship decades ago; more recently, the automaker was the first to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a hybrid powertrain. Now the automaker is turning its attention to one of the most extreme competitions on earth, the Dakar Rally, and combining know-how from both those previous endeavors. Audi will enter Dakar in 2022 with a newly developed hybrid machine that goes by the name of RSQ E-Tron.

The Audi RSQ E-Tron’s hybrid powertrain consists of a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, a 50-kWh battery, and two electric motors, one at each axle. It employs the same gasoline engine found in the Audi RS5 Turbo DTM and borrows its electric motors from the current Audi E-Tron FE07 Formula E-Car, which Audi developed for the 2021 season.

The engine acts as a generator, charging the battery while driving by spinning up a third electric motor, and reaches the highest efficiency between 4,500 and 6,000 rpm. That same third electric motor acts as a generator during braking, helping the RSQ E-Tron recuperate some of that energy that otherwise would be lost as heat in the mechanical brakes. The electric drive motors, which underwent minor modifications, generate a combined 671 horsepower. Depending on Dakar Rally regulations, the RSQ E-Tron’s power output could change.

One advantage of an electric drivetrain is that it allows the driver to control each electric motor precisely, ensuring solid drivability. The RSQ E-Tron has a single-speed direct-drive setup, and contrary to standard all-wheel-drive vehicles, the front and rear axles are not mechanically connected. Instead, software developed by Audi determines the torque distribution between the axles, creating a freely configurable center differential. Compared to prop shafts and a mechanical differential, this EV-standard setup helps save weight and space.

Reliability reigns supreme in the Dakar Rally. Nonetheless, an electric drivetrain requires that different systems communicate with one another, something Audi sees as its biggest challenge. In Formula E, Audi has managed to achieve a system efficiency of over 97 percent. What it learns from the extreme conditions at Dakar will be implemented in future production models.

The RSQ E-Tron had its first test drive in Neuburg at the beginning of July, and all development happened during the pandemic. An intensive test program and entry into cross-country rallies are in the plans for the rest of the year. By entering the Dakar Rally, Audi is ushering in a new era as it tests and develops the E-Tron technology under extreme conditions. Dakar runs for two weeks, and daily stages have a distance of up to approximately 500 miles. And it is worth mentioning that there is no charging in the desert. But of course, we all knew that.

Sharing some similarities with the Razorback in the upcoming Halo Infinite video game, the RSQ E-Tron features several design elements typical of Audi. The automaker compares the Dakar project to the first moon landing and insists if it finishes the rally, that’s already a triumph. With the RSQ E-Tron, Audi wants to use an electric drivetrain to compete against gas-powered vehicles, and Dakar presents the ideal setting for the new challenge.

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