Audi is quitting Formula E to build a beastly Dakar Rally EV

Audi is quitting Formula E and will reveal a new Dakar Rally all-electric race car for the 2022 season, shaking up its motorsport efforts as it aims to prove EVs are the equals of their internal-combustion counterparts. The decision will see the Audi Formula E factory team shut down after the 2021 season – using the new e-tron FE07 only just revealed – though it won't mean the end of the automaker's involvement completely.

"The use of the newly developed Audi powertrain by customer teams will remain possible beyond next year," the automaker says. Indeed, customer racing will still be a significant component to its motorsports endeavors, Audi insists, including both specific models and service for worldwide racing.

In-house, though, the big attention will turn to the 2022 Dakar Rally. There, Audi plans to race a brand new hybrid prototype, which will combine electrification and a gas engine used as a mobile generator. Today, it released concept art of what sort of rally car it has in mind.

The drivetrain will be a new arrangement for Audi. First there'll be an electric system, with motors delivering all-wheel drive. That'll be powered by a high-voltage battery, with a TFSI internal-combustion engine onboard used as a generator to top that up as required.

The result, Audi says, should be a more efficient use of combustion, along with an uptick in performance and less concern around range. "The experience gained in this process should then be incorporated into the further development of future electrified production models," the automaker promises.

Audi is no stranger to hybrids, though they've taken a different approach in its production cars. There – such as in the Q5 PHEV – the gas engine is mechanically connected to the wheels, combining with battery-electric power. In the Dakar Rally car, it seems, an approach more akin to that of BMW's i3 Range Extender looks likely, where the gas engine is mechanically separate from the axles and used, instead, as a source of electricity generation.

Dakar is no stranger to EVs, though they're still in the minority compared to more traditional trucks. An all-electric vehicle attempted the rally first three years ago, while a hybrid Renault truck featured in this year's competition.

Audi, however, will be the first car manufacturer to use a hybrid Dakar Rally vehicle, it points out. The automaker aims to have around 40-percent of its sales by 2025 be battery-electric or plug-in hybrid. The Audi Sport international motorsport division will be led by Julius Seebach moving forward – currently Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH, a position which he will retain – in the process replacing Dieter Gass.