ZF and MKR Technology reveal world‘s first hybrid drive for the Dakar Rally

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJanuary 6, 2020

More e-power for the desert: The Renault C640 from MKR Technology and Riwald Dakar is the first hybrid truck in the history of the Dakar Rally.

MKR Technology, ZF and the Riwald Dakar team have made history together: the first ever hybrid-powered off-road truck of the Dakar Rally.

ZF has developed a new hybrid driveline, the CeTrax Lite RS electric drive, which gives the Riwald Dakar team‘s all-wheel drive truck an additional 80kW of cruising power, a peak performance of 150kW, and 1400Nm of torque.

ZF, in cooperation with MKR Technology, has fitted the Riwald Dakar team‘s Renault C640 with a new driveline developed especially for this objective. The core of this driveline is a special prototype of ZF‘s central electric axle drive, reconfigured in terms of its hardware and software to make it fit for a rally. The final product is called CeTrax Lite RS.

Developing a specific gear ratio proved to be a tough challenge. The 13,000rpm asynchronous electric motor had to be adjusted to the 2700rpm that the 1000hp diesel engine produces at the transmission output. In addition to the electric motor, ZF also supplies integrated power electronics and the hybrid control unit, including the software that has been programmed specifically for the Dakar Rally. An automatic transmission from ZF is also installed in the driveline. This transmission funnels the horsepower from the diesel engine with utmost efficiency. Power from the combustion engine and e-unit enter the ZF transfer case converting the Renault truck into an all-wheel off-road vehicle.

“The extreme conditions of the Dakar Rally – lots of sand and rough terrain – offer us a unique and amazing opportunity to subject our hybrid driveline to the ultimate acid test, says Ralf Boss, director of Special Vehicle Systems at ZF. This bodes well for series potential in other demanding applications with special vehicles.

CeTrax Lite RS from ZF supplies an additional 1400Nm of torque, a cruising power of 80kW and an electric peak output of 150kW to the driveline.

The Riwald Dakar Team and their driver Gert Huzink are the only participants entering Dakar 2020 with a hybrid electric vehicle. In addition to demonstrating the partners‘ commitment to sustainability, the first tests show that this pioneering vehicle could come out on top at the finish line. On test circuits in Poland, France and the Netherlands, the team was able to take a few seconds off their usual times. Besides the extra power, the time advantage is due the recuperation effect of the electric motor. This means that the brakes can be actuated later and harder, allowing the vehicle to be driven at its limit speed for longer.

“The components simply work with each other in perfect harmony,” says Mario Kress, chief designer and owner of MKR Technology. “We‘re excited about how quickly and effectively the CeTrax Lite RS boosts the truck‘s performance.”

In addition, the 400V battery can be recharged quickly while driving so that it can deliver another bout of massive torque by the next dune ahead.

The Dakar Rally takes place in Saudi Arabia from 5 to 17 January.