Audi has had a long history with their involvement in the Dakar Rally. This year, they made headlines as they unveiled the new RS Q e-tron rally car to awaiting enthusiasts in the summer of 2021. It’s debut of a new rally car is big news as the German manufacturer has been on hiatus with rally races for 35 years. A big theme with this concept rally car is safety, with a focus on designing for maximum protection for passengers during accidents.
The team of engineers responsible for the RS Q e-tron have said that they ran into quite a unique problem with their planned rally car. The Dakar Rally is already for combustion powered cars, so it would take an extraordinary effort to build one that can get through this event using only an electrified powertrain.
This high-performance racer will be showing off Audi’s capabilities with hybrid and all-electric cars. Along with its power, the safety features of this rally car are a step forward for the manufacturer. To get through this race, the team went around modifying everything they could to optimize the car’s performance and safety capabilities. The basic structure of the RS Q e-tron is composed of a tube frame that is composed of a high-durability material. A specially composed alloy of tempered steel that’s used in aerospace industries was chosen, being composed of elements such as Chromium, Molybdenum, and Vanadium.
Drivers are also protected by panels made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic or “CFRPs”, with some being additionally reinforced by Zylon. This makes sure that any sharp foreign objects will not harm the passengers, while also preventing accidents that may stem from the high-voltage electric systems. Axel Löffler, the Chief Designer RS Q e-tron, says that “The structural design of the frame incorporated methods and findings that we have honed over decades in many disciplines.”
An internal honeycomb structure aids the structure’s durability, used on various components of the vehicle. The heated laminated glass windshield is carried from the Audi A4, with side windows being made out of light polycarbonate. The field of vision has been enlarged, and the car has been sealed against dust and debris. The cockpit itself sports CFRP shells for the driver and passenger, with the foam inlays and inflatable seat cushions designed to absorb the shock and impact of rally races.
The high-voltage electric system of the electric powertrain is encapsulated by CFRP structures, some elements of it being reinforced by Zylon. Another encapsulating structure is an energy-absorbing foams for absorbing shocks and spreading it out the CFRP sandwich structure. The last protective structure is meant for the protection of the battery and the gasoline tank.
The overall thickness of all these protective elements is about 54 millimeters thick. Audi is expecting that their knowledge of circuit racing will help them in performing great in cross-country rallying. The company seems to be going forward with their vision to innovate further on existing safety features, making sure they’re name will be synonymous to cutting edge safety with their vehicles.