Electric vehicle prepares to join gruelling Dakar competition

The Dakar Rally is one of the toughest competitions in the world, renowned for a gruelling, long route through through unforgiving terrain - and next year, an electric vehicle hopes to be one of the first to complete the challenge.

A Latvian team has constructed a range-extended vehicle, similar to that used by the Chevrolet Volt, which it believes can cover the 9,000 km route through South America, which begins January 1.

Their car, the eO, is based on the cross-country O3 SUV made by OSC, a Latvian brand which specializes in off-road racing vehicles.

However, unlike the gas-powered O3, the OSCar eO has been rigged with a 180 kW electric motor, allowing top speeds of 140 km/h and a range of up to 300 km using the built-in batteries.

When the power runs low, the eO fires up an onboard generator fed by the 200 liter fuel tank to propel itself even further, in the same way that the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera operate.

Specially adapted for the terrain of the Dakar race, the motors are also able to up their output to 315 kW for short bursts, which the team members say will allow them to negotiate the particularly steep sand dunes of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

"Electric vehicles can already be seen across various motorsport disciplines but nobody has dared to tackle rally raids like the Dakar," said OSC's Andris Dambis, "we will be the first."

It's certainly a challenge - the Dakar Rally started in 1978 as a race between Paris and Dakar, Senegal but now takes a route through South American countries, covering dunes, mud, rocks and almost every other imaginable terrain.

This year's event follows almost the length of the Andes Mountain Range, crossing South America from Argentina's Mar Del Plata and up the west side of the continent through Chile and Peru.

It begins January 1, 2012 and is expected to end January 15.

http://www.dakar.com
http://oscareo.lv/

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