Unlike the Toyota Mirai FCV, which participated in the Shinshiro Rally as the Zero Car, an EV will actually race in the Dakar Rally. Also, unlike the Shinhiro Rally, the Dakar Rally isn’t a rally but rather an endurance race where the terrain is much tougher. Because of this, only true off-road cars can be entered in the Dakar, unlike the modified on-road cars used on muddy tracks of other rallies.
Hence, the decision of Spanish conglomerate Acciona to enter an electric car in Dakar may sound crazy, because it is. Even if the car isn’t expected to win, it must cross the finish line by a certain cutoff time after traversing more than 5,000 miles (9,000++ kilometers) through mountains, rocky roads and even the occasional sand dunes. No wonder that Dakar is “considered the toughest test in the world for a car.”
The car is the third installment of “the trilogy of 100% EcoPowered vehicles it began back in 2011 with the rocket-powered sled that reached the South Pole, continuing with its participation in the 2012 edition of the Vendeé Globe with a yacht that went round the world without making stopovers or using fossil fuel.”
This is the first time ever that a 100% electric vehicle is participating in the 37-year old event. The fuel requirements are enormous, the average team uses 594 gallons (2,250 liters) of fuel for the race and “ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered will not emit a single CO2 particle.”
The vehicle was a product of two years of research and uses “a high-efficiency synchronous electric motor, four removable ion-lithium battery packs and a system of photovoltaic panels.” The electric motor has an equivalent of 300 horsepower and weighs only 176 lbs (80 kgs.), which is much less than the 616 lb. (280 kg.) average weight of the engines of its petrol-powered competitors. This is complemented by the four lithium-ion packs which pack 140 KwH, which is enough to power around 5 average US households for a day. Still, these are swappable in order to minimize the downtime. A set of solar panels are installed on the roof in order to power the security systems and power management of the car.
It may be too early to say if the car would win, but if it finishes the course ahead of conventional trucks, the rest of the motoring world will surely notice.