Weather Adds to Challenges in South American Dakar
Spanish energy firm Acciona’s electric off road race car has returned to the most difficult and grueling race for drivers and machines in all of motorsports — the Dakar Rally.
For the third year in a row the electric off-roader, named 100% EcoPowered, was the only zero emission vehicle entered in the storied rally, which began as a Paris-to-Dakar, Senegal, race nearly 40 years ago.
The rally moved to South America in 2009 because of security concerns about racing across North Africa, and this year’s Dakar stretches some 5,600 miles (nearly 9000 km) across the desert and mountains of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Acciona said the purpose of the Dakar EV is to “reach an optimal balance between electric propulsion technology, powered entirely by batteries, and the unique characteristics of a racing car prepared for an extreme adventure such as the Dakar.”
The 100% EcoPowered electric car employs a 150-kilowatt-hour pack that uses the same Panasonic cells as the Tesla Model S made of modules that can be removed when they are not needed for certain stages of the race.
The batteries send electrons through a purpose-built gearbox to a 300-horsepower synchronous electric motor that can deliver a stump-pulling 516 pounds-feet of torque. Top speed is 93 mph.
A roof of high-yield photovoltaic solar panels recharge the vehicle’s primary power system (electronic components, navigation, lighting and communication systems).
With the help of a support truck, the Acciona race team is able to recharge the batteries at various checkpoints in about an hour with a fast-charger powered by a biodiesel-powered generator.
Obviously, with the need to recharge for an hour at checkpoints and the Acciona Dakar EV’s 93 mph top speed, the car could never challenge the mighty factory-backed Peugeot and Mini teams for the win.
In the 2015 Dakar Rally the car pulled out after just three days due to a navigation system malfunction, and last year it was disqualified after failing to make it to the start line for the 11th stage on time.
The two previous disappointing runs haven’t discouraged the Acciona team, they are excited to face another challenging race.
Stage Seven took place Monday after rain delays and competitors continue to get winnowed out. The 2017 Dakar Rally concludes on January 14