The Dakar Rally is among the world's most challenging and prestigious motorsport events. It tests drivers, co-drivers, and vehicles' endurance, skill, and innovation across harsh terrains and extreme conditions. Only the best of the best can hope to win this grueling race.
Audi is one of the few manufacturers that has dared to take on this challenge with a groundbreaking vehicle: the RS Q e-tron. This rally prototype combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and an energy converter system based on the TFSI engine and a generator. It is the first vehicle to compete in the Dakar Rally, and it aims to prove that electric mobility can be sustainable, efficient, and powerful.
The RS Q e-tron debuted in the 2022 Dakar Rally, showing its potential by winning six stages and achieving 22 other podium finishes. However, it also faced some technical issues and accidents that prevented it from reaching its top positions. Audi learned from these experiences and improved the RS Q e-tron for the 2023 Dakar Rally, where it again demonstrated its speed and reliability by winning four stages and finishing in the top five overall.
Now, Audi is ready to take the Audi RS Q e-tron to the next level for the 2024 Dakar Rally, which will take place in January in Saudi Arabia. The rally car has received numerous innovations in many areas, making it safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and a little lighter, with shorter maintenance times for the team. Here are some of the key improvements that Audi has made to the RS Q e-tron for 2024:
Safety: Reducing the impact of jumps and crashes
The Dakar Rally is notorious for its rough terrain, often including big jumps, drops, and bumps. These can cause stress and damage to the vehicle and its occupants, especially during hard landings or crashes. Audi has worked hard to reduce the peak vertical acceleration during these events, which can affect the car's and crew's performance and safety.
One of the ways Audi has achieved this is by optimizing the springs, dampers, and the bump stop in the chassis. These components help distribute some of the load over time, enabling better control of the platform, which is vital for the car's overall performance. Another way is by improving the foam in the seats, which helps to distribute the loads on the driver and co-driver over a longer period, thus reducing peak loads. The engineers have specifically focused on the material stiffness and geometries of the foam, taking into account how the cockpit temperature influences the stiffness of the foam.
Additionally, Audi has enhanced the protection of the occupants after a hard frontal landing of the vehicle, like the one that caused Carlos Sainz's second accident at the 2023 Dakar Rally, which ended up with the car rolling over. The carbon-fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) crash box at the front end of the chassis structure is now longer without compromising the angle of attack, which is crucial in cross-country rallying. The crash box is designed to absorb the energy generated during such events better than before, reducing the risk of injury and damage.
Reliability: Increasing the durability and efficiency of the drivetrain
The Audi RS Q e-tron has a unique drivetrain consisting of an electric motor on each axle, a high-voltage battery, and an energy converter system that uses a TFSI engine and a generator to recharge the battery. This system allows the e-tron to run on electric power most of the time while using the TFSI engine as a range extender when needed. The TFSI engine runs on renewable synthetic fuel, reducing the vehicle's carbon footprint.
However, this complex system also poses some challenges regarding reliability and efficiency. Audi has made several improvements to the drivetrain components to ensure they can withstand the harsh conditions of the Dakar Rally and deliver optimal performance. For instance, Audi has increased the durability of its electric motors by using new materials and coatings that reduce wear and tear. Audi has also improved the cooling system of the high-voltage battery by using a new heat exchanger that increases heat transfer and reduces temperature fluctuations. Furthermore, Audi has optimized the system's energy management using a new software that adjusts the power output and consumption according to the terrain and the driving style.
Comfort: Reducing the noise and vibration levels
The Dakar Rally is not only a physical challenge but also a mental one. The drivers and co-drivers must endure long hours of driving in a noisy and vibrating environment, which can affect their concentration, communication, and well-being. Audi has taken some measures to reduce the noise and vibration levels inside the cockpit of the RS Q e-tron, making it more comfortable and pleasant for the crew.
One of the sources of noise and vibration in the RS Q e-tron is the TFSI engine, which runs at a constant speed of 4,500 rpm when it is activated. Audi has reduced the noise and vibration of the engine by using a new exhaust system with a larger diameter and a different shape. The new exhaust system also reduces the engine's back pressure and fuel consumption. Electric motors are another source of noise and vibration in the RS Q e-tron, which produces a high-frequency sound that can annoy the ears. Audi has reduced the noise of the electric motors by using a new insulation material that absorbs the sound waves and prevents them from reaching the cockpit.
Weight: Saving some kilograms without compromising performance
The vehicle's weight is an important factor in the Dakar Rally, affecting the car's speed, agility, and fuel consumption. The RS Q e-tron is a heavy vehicle carrying a large, high-voltage battery and an energy converter system. Audi has tried to save some weight in the RS Q e-tron without compromising its performance or safety.
One of the ways Audi has saved some weight is by using a new material for the car's bodywork. The new material is a thermoplastic composite that is lighter and stronger than the previous material, which was a fiberglass composite. The new material is also easier to repair in case of damage, as it can be heated and reshaped on-site. Another way Audi has saved some weight is by using a new wiring harness that is thinner and lighter than the previous one. The new wiring harness also has fewer connectors and terminals, reducing the risk of electrical failure.
Maintenance: Reducing the time and effort required for service
The Dakar Rally is not only a race but also a marathon. The vehicles have to cover thousands of kilometers over two weeks, with only one rest day in between. This means that the vehicles have to be serviced and repaired every day after each stage, which can take several hours and require a lot of manpower and resources. Audi has tried to reduce the time and effort required for the maintenance of the RS Q e-tron, making it easier and faster for the team.
One of the ways Audi has reduced the maintenance time is by using a new modular design for the drivetrain components. The new design allows the electric motors, the high-voltage battery, and the energy converter system to be removed and replaced as a whole unit instead of disassembling and reassembling them piece by piece. This saves a lot of time and reduces the risk of errors or damage. Another way Audi has reduced maintenance time is by using a new diagnostic system that monitors the status and performance of the vehicle and alerts the team of any issues or faults. The new system also provides the team with detailed data and recommendations for the optimal settings and adjustments of the vehicle.
Conclusion: Audi is confident and ambitious for the 2024 Dakar Rally
The RS Q e-tron is Audi's most innovative and ambitious project in motorsport. It is a vehicle that combines electric mobility with sustainability, efficiency, and power. It is a vehicle that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of technology and performance. It is a vehicle that aims to win the Dakar Rally, the ultimate test of endurance, skill, and innovation.
Audi has improved the RS Q e-tron for the 2024 Dakar Rally, making it safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and a little lighter, and it has shorter maintenance times for the team. Audi is confident and ambitious for the 2024 Dakar Rally, where it will face tough competition from other manufacturers and teams. Audi is ready to conquer the desert with the RS Q e-tron, the future rally car.
Published by Flo Rin