FIRST EV FINISHES DAKAR
Acciona is first battery-powered vehicle to complete marathon rally
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.