FIRST EV FINISHES DAKAR

Ac­ciona is first bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cle to com­plete marathon rally

4WDrive - - Contents - WORDS BY BUDD STANLEY, PHOTOS COURTESY OF AC­CIONA

EVEN AT THE BEST OF TIMES, THE DAKAR RALLY IS A BRU­TAL BEAST THAT DEVOURS OFF-ROAD rac­ers at an in­cred­i­ble rate. Add fe­ro­cious stormy weather and a river that broke its banks, and the 2017 edi­tion of the Dakar was par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient at re­tir­ing com­pe­ti­tion ve­hi­cles on a daily ba­sis. Nearly a third of the cars en­tered would not see the fin­ish line.

If the very na­ture of the rally wasn’t chal­leng­ing enough, try to fin­ish the in­fa­mous race at the wheel of a bat­tery­pow­ered elec­tric ve­hi­cle? Well, for the first time in his­tory, a team has done just that, con­quer­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, the long dis­tances, the bru­tal ter­rain and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters to com­plete the 13-day race that cov­ered nearly 9,000 km.

That team was the Ac­ciona team, spon­sored by an in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion com­pany that pays par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis to re­new­able en­ergy. The car it­self is pow­ered by a 250-kW elec­tric mo­tor, ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 590 lb-ft and sends its power to all four wheels. Power comes from six bat­tery mod­ules that pro­vide 150 kWh of en­ergy. Each mod­ule is ca­pa­ble of charg­ing in­de­pen­dently, al­low­ing the bat­ter­ies to be fully charged in an hour with a fast charg­ing sys­tem in the bivouac. To add ad­di­tional power to the sys­tem, the ve­hi­cle runs a roof-mounted 100-watt pho­to­voltaic so­lar cell panel that cap­tures sun en­ergy while rac­ing across the desert.

With no in­ter­nal com­bus­tion gen­er­a­tors on board to aid bat­tery charg­ing and range, Ac­ciona pro­claim the car to be a “100% EcoPow­ered 4x4.” De­spite the rigours of the Dakar, the heat, the al­ti­tude - and es­pe­cially this year the epi­cally wet con­di­tions, the elec­tric pow­er­train proved it­self ca­pa­ble of con­quer­ing the worst that the mo­tor­sport world could throw at it, and it did it with­out di­rectly pro­duc­ing a sin­gle gram of pol­lut­ing emis­sions.

Af­ter two prior at­tempts, the 2017 team was fi­nally able to con­quer the Dakar on their third try. Ar­gen­tini­ans, Ariel Jatón and Tito Rolón, man­aged to bring the EV across the fin­ish line in 57th po­si­tion in the T1.3 class.

“The odyssey is over,” said Ac­ciona driver Ariel Jatón. “This year’s Dakar was very tough, with some very in­tense stages com­pli­cated by the weather, and the al­ti­tude in Bo­livia. It was the most gru­elling race in South Amer­ica, so we are thrilled to have reached the fin­ish line, par­tic­u­larly in an elec­tric car.”

With elec­tric ve­hi­cles al­ready be­com­ing pop­u­lar choices in hill climb rac­ing, drag rac­ing, for­mula rac­ing and mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing, con­quer­ing such a long dis­tance marathon event must now make sev­eral com­pe­ti­tion ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers re­think the way they power fu­ture rac­ing ma­chin­ery. With the in­creas­ing abil­ity to stretch the range of an al­ready proven high per­for­mance pow­er­train, one can’t help but won­der how long the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine has to live? It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Ac­ciona will make a return to the Dakar in 2018, in hopes to pro­duce an even more com­pet­i­tive per­for­mance.

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