The Dakar Rally has changed in recent years, moving out of Africa into South America and then Saudi Arabia and the cars taking part have changed too. Audi wants to bring electrification to the competition, making it even more difficult than it already is - in 2020, out of 351 entrants, only 226 finished the rally, or 64.4 percent.

The automaker from Ingolstadt isn’t quite ready to show up to The Dakar with fully-electric vehicles, so this year it lined up a trio of RS Q E-Trons, range-extender EVs specially designed for the event. All three finished, taking four stage wins and another fourteen podiums, completing day-long stages as long as 900 km / 560 miles.

It’s these very long stages, which take place in areas far from civilization and any kind of charging infrastructure, that currently make it very impractical to enter a pure-EV in The Dakar. However, this may change as battery technology improves along with solar charging technology that should provide a noticeable boost in the scorching desert.

The RS Q E-Tron has a relatively small 52 kWh battery pack, which is constantly topped up by a 2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that Audi borrowed from its 2020 RS5 Turbo DTM (where it was tuned to make 610 horsepower). The manufacturer notes that the racing mill runs very efficiently in its role as a generator, using around 200 grams of fuel per each kWh it generates.

Powering the wheels is a pair of electric motors that together can provide up to 300 kW (402 horsepower) and they can send the 2-ton RS Q E-Tron to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 170 km/h (105.5 mph), which is limited as per the regulations. 

There’s a third electric motor on-board, but that is hooked up to the gasoline engine and only acts as a generator. It can provide a peak charging rate of 220 kW, when it’s running at a constant 6,000 rpm, according to Audi. The vehicle’s fuel tank can hold 295 liters / 77.9 gallons US).

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