Extreme E’s new electric SUV, Odyssey 21, is undergoing an intensive first week of off-road testing this week, with FIA World Rallycross front-runners Timmy and Kevin Hansen and TCR Scandanavia driver Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky behind the wheel.
The pioneering Spark Racing Technology-designed and built electric SUV completed its first day’s running at the Chateau de Lastours testing venue near Carcassonne in the south of France – used by a number of World Rally Championship and Dakar outfits as a proving ground.
The four-day test is being run in conjunction with Continental, as the company develops its unique, bespoke high-performance tires constructed specifically to tackle everything Extreme E’s five formidable environments can throw their way.
Current World RX standings leader Timmy Hansen was the first to drive Odyssey 21 off-road and was impressed with the radical car’s characteristics and performance.
“As early as lap two I was able to push,” said the Swede. “The car felt nimble, agile and responsive – it definitely didn’t feel its size. It drifted as you’d want a four-wheel drive car to do then it pulls and recovers nicely when you apply the throttle. I already feel comfortable in the driver’s seat.
On his first experience driving an electric vehicle, Timmy adds: “It has incredibly good driveability compared to a rallycross car. The throttle responds instantly.
“You get the exact response you want, which you can’t get from a combustion engine with anti-lag devices and the like. It’s instant power when you need it and nothing when you don’t. You can control everything through the pedals.
“Everything was as I hoped – you don’t expect that at such an early point in testing. It feels like a car I could spend all day in, so let’s go!”
Continental’s test driver for Extreme E, Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, has a key part to play in the process; testing to ensure the company’s bespoke tyres perform across all conditions encountered across Extreme E Season One.
“I’m super excited – this is the first big testing step for us,” she said. “The launch was the first marker with the tyres on the car for the first run to see how everything worked together and looked.
“We can finally test the tires to their maximum on a rough, off-road surface and it’s a great opportunity to see how much we can push them, where the limit is and how much we can improve them.
“We’ll use our expertize to develop a brand new tire to cope with all the different surfaces. The tyre is the link between the car and the ground.
“Without a good tyre, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing with the car setup-wise. They have to perform in tough conditions across every event.”
The car’s only previous outings have been engineering shakedowns following its public unveiling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in prototype form. Since then, Spark has outfitted the car with its final drive configuration, running at three-quarters of its final performance.
Development of the prototype will continue apace ahead of delivery of 12 cars from Spark Racing Technology to teams in Summer 2020.
Group testing is planned to take place in Autumn next year before competitors board Extreme E’s unique floating garage, the RMS St. Helena, ahead of the opening race in February 2021.