Acciona is a Spanish company that is heavily involved in promoting sustainable energy throughout the world, including the US. What better way to showcase is green credentials than to make the first car powered 100% by electrical power to compete in the Dakar rally, the world’s longest and most grueling off road challenge?
The development of the car took a team of 20 dedicated professionals more than 2 years to complete. The mission was simple. Enter a battery powered car in the race. Get to the finish line. The Acciona entry was driven by Ariel Jatón with Gastón Scazzuso serving as navigator. The Dakar rally, which used to race across northern Africa, was moved some years ago to South America. Today, it covers nearly 9,000 kilometers across trackless terrain under extreme conditions of heat, cold, and humidity.
The rally car features a synchronous motor driving through a sequential gearbox. It has a 150 kWh battery that can be recharged in one hour. It has nearly 2 feet of suspension travel to soak up the rocks, river beds and mountain passes along the way. The high strength, low weight body is made from carbon fiber.
The race this year ran from January 7 through the 17th and consisted of 11 stages. Did the Acciona win? No. In fact, it wasn’t really all that competitive, any more than a Formula E car is competitive with a Formula One car. The point was not to win. The point was to prove that an elecrtric racer could enter and go the distance. Winning is something that may come in time.
Many forms of automobile racing are flirting with electric power. Formula One cars have an onboard battery and electric motor to boost performance. Formula E is an open wheel racing series dedicated to electric only racing. Le Mans competition today features cars that all have hybrid powertrains. The Acciona car is is blazing a trail for the electric rally cars of the future.
Sadly, the car was disqualified from the start of Stage 11, after the team was unable to get the car to the starting line on time. But the team is not discouraged. They intend to be back next year with an electric rally car that is stronger and faster than ever.