Is the Audi RS Q e-tron a Test Bed for the activesphere Concept?

Audi RS Q e-tron

Is Audi just playing in the sand? Or can we expect to see some real-world application of rally tech in the future?

Last week, I was traveling when Audi released details on the latest version of its RS Q e-tron E2, which will eventually compete in the 2023 Dakar Rally.  Due to the remote nature of the competitions it’s designed for, the electric off-roader uses an onboard internal-combustion engine as a generator to charge the batteries. It’s basically an entirely new machine from the version Ingolstadt entered last year, which made history by becoming the first electric-powered vehicle to take a stage victory.

Twist still comes from a dual motor setup, which features one at each axle. But revisions to the bodywork have improved the drag coefficient by a whopping 15 percent, and great pains were taken to reduce the overall weight of the rig, which was already north of the class minimum. Along with saving weight, the new carbon fiber fenders were also designed to help speed tire changes. Plus, engineers also made changes to the engine management and air conditioning systems to ensure no precious energy goes to waste.

Now, we’ll have to see how well the RS Q e-tron E2 does when it enters next month’s Morocco Rally. But looking at this beast of a machine made me wonder if this is the kind of set up we’re going to see on the activesphere concept Audi teased late last month. Because while I still believe the world doesn’t really need an Audi truck, the idea of an electric vehicle with rally-proven race technology is an attractive one indeed. And given the growing popularity of off-roading? It seems like it could prove a massive hit.

Another factor to consider is what exactly the point of the whole Dakar exercise is, if not to provide technology that will trickle down to the consumer market. After all, Audi was very clear that changing engine requirements, which included more robust electrification efforts and a focus on sustainability, were a key factor in why it will be entering Formula 1 for the 2026 season. But what do you think? Will the activesphere concept be a “road-going” version of the RS Q e-tron? Hit me up and let me know! 

Photos: Audi

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Audi RS Q e-tron Makes History at Dakar 2022

Audi RS Q e-tron Dakar 2022

Victory of Stage 3 of Dakar 2022 marks the first time a hybrid vehicle has triumphed at the legendary rally.

The 2022 Dakar Rally hasn’t gone exactly as planned for Audi Sport. But while the race is only about half over, the team has already made history. Because four days into the race, driver Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz brought their RS Q e-tron in ahead of all the competition. That marked the first time that a hybrid-electric car has won a stage during the legendarily grueling test of man and machine. Make no mistake — this isn’t just a watershed moment for Audi, or the Dakar, but the world of racing as a whole.

To be clear, the RS Q e-tron isn’t a fully electric vehicle, as it features a small internal combustion motor to charge the batteries when plugging in would prove impossible. That said, given the resources that Audi is dedicating toward electric development, and the pace at which battery technology is developing, an all-electric Dakar rig might not be all that far off. So don’t be surprised if you see Dakar veteran and Audi partner Ken Block behind the wheel of a green machine in the next few years.

Unfortunately, an overall victory in 2022 isn’t in the cards. On the first stage, Audi driver and 14-time Dakar champ Stéphane Peterhansel hit a rock which took out not only one of his wheels, but a decent chuck of the rear suspension. While that’s the kind of thing that can happen when you’re racing for 5,000 miles through the desert, the time spent sitting on the trail means the time off the lead will be all but impossible to overcome.

More frustrating than the crash, however, was a confusing roadbook that left his teammates Sainz and Cruz lost for a whopping two hours. In fairness, they weren’t the only car that wound up off the course, but since Audi declined to file a grievance with race control, the standings will reflect the unfortunate detour. That said? While it would have been amazing to win overall on the e-tron’s first effort, it was always a longshot, and Audi will undoubtedly learn plenty about its innovative powertrain over the course of the race.

Photos: Audi

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Exciting Experiment: The Audi RS Q e-tron is Heading to Dakar

Audi RS Q e-tron

This January, the Audi RS Q e-tron prototype will enter the legendarily brutal Dakar Rally.

Back in April, we posted about how Audi was set to enter the grueling Dakar rally with an electric vehicle prototype. At the time, the only image available was a render of it under some silk. But now, Ingolstadt has ripped the cover off — and does this baby ever look like a beast. So meet the Audi RS Q e-tron, the next generation of extreme rally machines. If any green machine is going to bend the desert to its will, you can bet that this Four Ring ripper will be the one to do it.

Now, you might be wondering exactly how the Audi Sport team was planning to charge the batteries during an event which will take the drivers through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. Because that’s obviously the $10,000 question, and one that the engineers solved by equipping the RS Q e-tron with a TFSI engine that will serve as an onboard generator, so the 50 kW battery pack gets a constant stream of juice. While that might technically make this desert sled a hybrid, it’s safe to say that if it was operating in, say, the greater Los Angeles area, it could lose the internal combustion component all together.

Each wheel is powered by an individual motor, and when it’s completely uncorked, the RS Q e-tron is capable of a whopping 670 horsepower. In the press literature, there’s no mention of a torque figure, and at this time, it’s unclear whether the rally’s governing body will allow the rig to run at full power. Given all the rules and regulations which characterize racing at any level, it’s entirely possible that it’ll have to be governed, so the playing field can remain as even as possible.

Obviously, this is a massive undertaking, and just finishing the race would be a huge achievement. After all, lots of competitors running tried and true kit wind up stranded during Dakar, as there’s just no telling what can happen once the rally is underway. But Andreas Roos, who’s running the ambitious campaign, is clearly already proud:

Less than twelve months have passed since the project officially started. We had to begin the development while the regulations for alternatively-powered vehicles had not even been finalized yet. And all of the development took place during the Corona pandemic. You mustn’t underestimate that either. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone.

The 2022 Dakar Rally is set to kick off in January, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the race to see just how well Audi’s historic entry fares against both the competition and the cruel desert sand. So stay tuned!

Photos: Audi

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