Audi is not giving up on its ambitious goal of conquering the world’s toughest desert rally with an electric drivetrain. After its debut at the Dakar Rally in 2022, where it scored six stage victories and 22 other podium finishes, the Audi RS Q e-tron has been improved for the 2024 edition. The rally car, which combines a high-voltage battery, an energy converter, and three electric motors, has received several innovative upgrades that make it safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and slightly lighter.
Improved safety features for the drivers and co-drivers
One of Audi's main concerns after the 2023 Dakar Rally was the safety of the drivers and co-drivers, who suffered injuries in two accidents involving Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz. To reduce the risk of such incidents, Audi has made some changes to the chassis, seats, and the RS Q e-tron crash box.
The chassis has been modified to better distribute the load over time during landings after big jumps, which can cause high vertical acceleration and stress on the occupants. The springs, dampers, and bump stops have been adjusted to optimize the control of the platform and the car's handling. The seats have also been redesigned with different materials and geometry of the foam, which helps to distribute the load on the driver and co-driver over a longer period of time and reduce peak loads. The foam also adapts to the cockpit temperature, which can vary significantly in the desert.
The crash box, made of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP), has been extended to absorb more energy in case of a hard frontal landing, like the one that caused Sainz’s car to roll over in 2023. The crash box does not compromise the angle of attack, which is crucial for cross-country rallying.
Enhanced reliability and durability of the wheel hubs
Another area of improvement for the Audi RS Q e-tron was the wheel hubs, which suffered from punctures and damage caused by rocks and debris getting inside the rim bed and penetrating the brake discs and the uprights. This resulted in several tire failures and repairs, which cost valuable time and resources for the team.
To prevent this from happening again, Audi has increased the clearance and the protection of the wheel hubs, especially the rim bed, which is now made of a stronger material. The brake discs have also been reinforced and the uprights have been redesigned to withstand higher loads. The tires, supplied by BF Goodrich, have also been upgraded with a thicker compound to resist punctures and cuts.
Reduced weight and improved aerodynamics of the body
The weight of the Audi RS Q e-tron is a critical factor for its performance and efficiency, especially in the dunes, where the car needs to climb steep slopes and accelerate quickly. The weight also affects the energy consumption of the electric drivetrain, which relies on a high-voltage battery and an energy converter to power the three electric motors.
To reduce the car's weight, Audi has made some changes to the body and some components, such as the brake calipers, which have been shrunk. The body has also been reshaped to improve the weight distribution and the airflow around the car. The new body is more compact and streamlined, reducing drag and lift. The cooling system, which is essential for the battery and the energy converter, has also been optimized to cope with the high temperatures and dust in the desert.