Generally accepted as one of the world’s toughest endurance races the 32-year-old Dakar rally is seen by many as the pinnacle of the automotive race calendar.
The race, which has claimed the lives of more than 50 competitors and many local residents in its short history is traditionally fueled by large, powerful combustion engines, but that may change with the introduction of the first plug-in electric car to compete.
Enter the OSCar e0, a Latvian-built monster SUV which outwardly looks no different from the multitude of ultra-rugged Bowler Wildcats or Hummers that compete every year, but which is powered by electricity.
Built for the race
The e0 is based on the OSCar e3, which is powered by a conventional Chevrolet-built gasoline engine.
But the electric e0 replaces it with motors capable of producing up to 590 lb. ft of torque and up to 315 kW of power for short periods.
Range extender for longer sections
The largest problem facing the e0 team isn’t the drivetrain but where to charge it. On arduous stages the team predict the range to be just 93 miles from its on-board Winston Battery lithium ion pack, while easier stages could see range increase to 186 miles.
Sadly, most stages in the Dakar Rally are longer. With no places to plug in, the OSCar e0 will also carry a range-extending gasoline engine made by Nissan to help provide electric power to keep the car racing.
A project engineer on the race team clarified that unlike the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the e0 would have no mechanical link between gasoline engine and wheels. “The propulsion will be 100% electric. The petrol unit will be mounted in the rear of the car and coupled only to the electric generator.”
As anyone who has watched the grueling Dakar Rally will tell you, the large dunes and rough terrain demands each car has the very best in suspension. The OSCar team has gone one step further, installing dampers capable of capturing the energy from each bump and converting it to electrical anergy.
Race set for 2012
The e0 will compete in the 2012 Dakar rally, which runs from January 1 to 15, 2012. The event will cover stages in Argentina, Chile and Peru and will cover more than 5,500 miles of terrain.
We wish them well.