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Extreme E Off-Road Testing to Begin in September

Test schedule coming together for electric SUV racer; Spark technical boss explains details…

Photo: Shiv Gohil/Spacesuit Media

Extreme E plans to test its electric off-road competition SUV within the next two months, according to Spark Racing Technologies technical director Theophile Gouzin.

A prototype of the Spark-built base model, which will be open to bodywork styling and powertrain customization from teams joining the series, was unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday.

Gouzin told e-racing365 that the car will be taken to a series of World Rally and Dakar proving grounds as part of its training for the inaugural season in 2021.

“Until September we will do very little running,” he said.

“The car [unveiled at Goodwood] is equipped with a Season One Formula E motor. We will be due to deliver the [full] car in two months when we have a proper race motor.

“In September and October, we will do some private testing in full race specification with overdrive at 550 horsepower [400 kW].

“First, we will go to a specialist off-road track, mainly to do software adjustments. With the all-wheel-drive, we need to set up all the maps for torque distribution and other things.

“We need a demanding track for that. Then we will go to the south of France, to Chateau de Lastours and other renowned tracks for WRC and Dakar Rally testing. This is where we will shake down the cars.”

Gouzin identified the improvisation needed to create a competition vehicle without an FIA technical rulebook as the main challenge of the design process.

The French company took inspiration from existing rally raid cars, and even considered a buggy concept, before settling on the final presented design.

Gouzin asserted that Spark’s goal “was not to reinvent the wheel”.

“One of the most demanding aspects was because the FIA is not involved,” he said.

“This means we had to set up our own design rules. Normally we would pick up an FIA regulation, but here there isn’t one because it’s an off-road electric car.

“We had to optimize the weight distribution of the wheel-base, so really it was important not to build a car on an existing chassis.

“The electrical motor, with regards to safety and software, we have learned from Formula E. That is what has allowed us to design the car in such a short time.

“We started back in September last year, and we were done by the end of March. We need to refer some things – one is that we have too many ball bearings – but we can easily sort it after some testing.

“Apart from the power [difference], we have the suspension travel of a two-wheel drive Dakar Rally car, but we are four-wheel-drive. In terms of hill-climbing and going over rocks, I don’t think there is another petrol car that will have these capabilities.”

While the car will be limited to sprint races of around 10km in length, Gouzin reckons that a top range of 250km (155 miles) could be achieved on a single charge.

However, he expressed caution when asked about the car’s viability for long distance rally events beyond Extreme E, describing the Dakar in particular as “another step”.

Efforts to Minimize Environmental Impact

Spark has introduced flax fiber as an exterior construction material to reflect the car’s purpose as an environmentally friendly off-road competition vehicle.

One of the key tenets of Extreme E is highlighting the damage inflicted by human-driven climate change in remote parts of the world, with an environmental mission accompanying the race series to all events.

“The bodywork is made up of flax fiber, which is a strong natural fiber, close to kevlar in terms of performance,” said Gouzin.

“We can recycle it more easily than what we have now, and it is a lot more repairable if you have a crack or a crash. It’s easier on a tubular frame than a monocoque. I think we took all these aspects into consideration.

“We will probably look at using it in Formula E when it becomes an FIA-homologated material.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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