All-electric Skoda rally car takes podium

Third place would be good for any debut, but for the RE-X1 Kreisel it's proof of concept

By Matt Bird / Friday, July 23, 2021 / Loading comments

We all know electrification is making its way to rallying; you only need look at the new Rally1 hybrid cars, or the adventures of ExtremeE, to see where the sport is heading. But it seemed that the notion of a fully electric rally car, one fit for stages and the travel between them, was a little way off. Not so!

The Skoda RE-X1 Kreisel is a modified Fabia Rally2 evo, replacing its 1.6-litre turbo with electric motors and a 52.6kWh battery, and it’s just finished the Rallye Weiz in Austria. That’s 14 special stages (160km in total) and transfers, meaning 514km of driving. It obviously wasn’t done on one charge, but the RE-X1 successfully completed full race distance. More than that, it finished in third place as well.

Obviously quite a lot more than swapping engine for battery is required to make an EV rally car. Even with the same dampers, wheel hubs and brakes as the petrol Fabia, Skoda Motorsport and Kreisel had to modify the lot to accommodate the extra 100kg carried. Without a gearbox there’s no sequential lever inside, the paddles now used to adjust brake recuperation levels.

And get this: there are two electric motors under the Fabia, one on each axle, and four-wheel drive, but no direct connection between front and rear. Kreisel’s Daniel Foissner said getting the axles to work like a rally car was “the biggest development challenge” of the project – you don’t say – with the new software working without drama in Austria. The RE-X1 even skids like a petrol rally car…

Where the Kreisel Skoda is a little different, of course, is in keeping it charged up – there would be no chance of a service stop splash and dash with kWh to replenish. Moreover, a Fabia Rally2 can carry 82.5 litres of fuel and use 0.6 litres per kilometre of stage driving. The RE-X1, with slightly more power and torque (349hp and 442lb ft), uses 1.2 kWh per stage kilometre – but only holds 52.6kWh of energy. So the Fabia had a support truck; or, more specifically, ‘Kreisel Electric Chimero mobile charging stations’, providing a 200kW supply and ensuring an 80 per cent charge in 15 minutes, meaning no time penalties were incurred. Fully charged, the RE-X1 is said to be capable of taking on a 35km special stage, which would cover off most if not all events.

Austrian rally legend Raimund Baumschlager was behind the wheel of the Fabia on Rallye Weiz, with Jurgen Heigl co-driving. He said of their podium in an electric car: “Third place is a brilliant result for us, especially since this was the world premiere of an electrically powered competition car that completed the full length of the race. We would like to thank all our partners for making this possible. We now have a lot of data needed for further development and we can’t wait for the next race.” The wet conditions played to Baumschlager’s experience, with the RE-X1’s handling to be “getting closer and closer to a petrol-engined Rally2”.

Quite some debut for the Skoda RE-X1 Kreisel, then, given the long-distance nature of rallying doesn’t suit electric vehicles. Yes, it did require a big truck to follow it pretty much stage to stage, but then a regular rally car needs plenty of fuel with it to complete an event as well. And as battery efficiency improves, so there will be a reduced need for such charging concessions. Yet, judging by the video, we’ll still have fast and exciting rally cars to watch. What’s to lose?

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