No race in the world demands more from its entrants than the Dakar Rally, a 5,500-mile trek through brutal South American wilderness at speeds that can be lethal to machines and humans. Which is what makes this year's entry of the first electric vehicle designed to survive the race all the more amazing.
Built by a team of Latvian rally racers and engineers, the OSCar eO moves thanks to a single, massive electric motor capable of up to 590 ft-lbs. of torque. Electricity arrives from a 52-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an onboard electric generator powered by a Nissan V6 engine -- in essence, the same kind of setup as the Chevy Volt.
Between the batteries and the generator, the team can travel 497 miles in racing trim before requiring a recharge. Although the truck maxes out at 86 mph, its builders say simply finishing the course in an electric vehicle for the first time would be enough of an accomplishment -- and good enough for victory in a special class of alternative-fuel vehicles.
As of Wednesday, the team was quietly running in 110th place overall -- still ahead of the 26 traditional rally cars knocked from the competition so far.
Photo: OSCar eO via Flickr