The company hints at a return to Le Mans, too.
Audi is ditching Formula E and getting dirty again by announcing an electrified entry for the 2022 Dakar Rally. The image above is the first teaser of what to expect to see kicking up sand through the desert. Plus, the company is teasing a return to Le Mans.
The Four Rings isn't yet offering much info on the rally vehicle's powertrain. It uses an electric drivetrain but has what the company calls an "energy converter" in the form of a turbocharged combustion engine. Going by this description, the setup seems to make the SUV a series hybrid with the petrol-drinking powerplant functioning as a range extender for charging the batteries when necessary, rather than a pure EV.
The company says that "the aim is to permanently improve the performance of the electric drivetrain and the battery in the years to come," suggesting that this might not be a one-year effort of competing in the Dakar Rally. "The experience gained in this process should then be incorporated into the further development of future electrified production models," Audi says in this project's announcement.
"In addition, we are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport," said Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH. "In doing so, we have our customers’ wishes in mind as much as the company’s future strategy, which is clearly focused on electrification and carbon-neutral mobility. This is why we are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours."
LMDh stands for Le Mans Daytona hybrid and is a new endurance racing class. The rules require a minimum weight of 1,030 kilograms (2,271 pounds) and a maximum output of 671 bhp (500 kilowatts) with a common hybrid system acting on the rear wheels. The first of these vehicles should begin competing in Europe for the 2022 season and the 2023 season in the US.
As far as Formula E is concerned, Audi's factory involvement ends after the 2021 season. However, the company will continue to supply its powertrain in the series to customer teams going forward.