For the first time in the 37-year history of the Dakar Rally, an electric vehicle will attempt to complete the over 5,000 mile course through some of the toughest terrain on the planet. If successful, it would be a major milestone for the electric vehicle movement, proving once and for all that EVs have a place in our transportation future.
This unique electric vehicle has been designed by Spanish civil engineering firm ACCIONA, which in the past two years has spearheaded ambitious sustainable missions like using kites to get to the South Pole. If that sounds crazy, it is, but not nearly as crazy as trying to complete the Dakar Rally in an electric vehicle. This is a race, mind you, and even if ACCIONA doesn’t expect to win, there’s still a time cutoff, so they’ve got to keep up the pace throughout the entire 5,000+ miles of the course spanning Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. The race is divided into various stages, often 200+ miles apart…but that’s 200 miles up and down mountains, sand dunes, and rocky fields.
Because no production vehicle could even hope to survive the Dakar Rally, ACCIONA build an entirely unique vehicle packing a 300 horsepower electric motor and four lithium-ion battery packs totalling 140 kWh of juice. That’s about the same amount of energy you’d find in a Tesla Model S85 and a pair of Nissan LEAFs, and it could power about 32 average homes for an entire day if plugged into the grid. It’s a whole lotta power, and ACCIONA has reportedly made the battery packs swappable, so downtime during the race can be kept to a minimum. There’s even a solar panel system that will supposedly ensure the batteries are charged only using the power of the sun, but I’m a little skeptical considering just how much juice this unique EV will need.
If successful, it would mark the first time the Dakar Rally was completed without using a single drop of fossil fuel. Considering the simplicity of electric motors though, the ACCIONA team should actually have an advantage when it comes to the higher elevations and air filter-choking desert portions of the course. In 2012 a plug-in hybrid completed Dakar, but efforts to bring an EV to the rally just haven’t panned out. Not even I was expecting an EV to attempt the course for a few more years.
If ACCIONA actually beat out some conventional powered competitors, you better believe the rest of the race field will be on notice.