Extreme E’s purpose-built all electric SUV, ODYSSEY 21, is undergoing its 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 E-SUV completed its first day’s running in France at the Chateau de Lastours testing venue near Carcassonne in the south of France, which is 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 the championship’s tire supplier Continental, which is developing bespoke high-performance tires specifically for the five formidable environments planned for Extreme E’s inaugural season in 2021.
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 2 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, Hansen added: “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!”
Ahlin-Kottulinsky, Continental’s official test driver for Extreme E, added: “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. They will have to take big impacts, and work across multiple surfaces and in different environments.
“When we started with this project we had nothing to go on but the locations we’d race in. We had to really use our imagination and experience to come up with designs and a solution that could perform against all the challenges that could be thrown its way. We’ll use our expertise to develop a brand-new tire to cope with all the different surfaces.”
The ODYSSEY 21’s peak 400kw (550hp) output is capable of firing the 1650kg (3638lb) car from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 percent.
Each vehicle comprises a common package of standardized parts, including a powertrain manufactured by Spark Racing Technology with a battery produced by Williams Advanced Engineering. The chassis encompasses a niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, as well as crash structure and roll cage.
Teams, should they wish, will be able to select areas of bodywork, such as the engine cover, front and rear bumpers, side skirt, and lights in a bid to replicate the look of everyday car models.
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 E-SUV with its final drive configuration, running at three-quarters of its final performance.
“We’re entering the unknown this week. We’ll go step-by-step slowly increasing power and speed as we go,” said Theophile Gouzin, technical director of Spark Racing Technology. “You think the limit is far but you try to reach it slowly and with confidence.
“At Goodwood, we only ran in a two-wheel drive configuration with Formula E motors. Now we have four-wheel drive and two motors — one front and one rear — with five or six times the torque.
“We have a 0-100kph of around five seconds at the moment. We’re not far from the final outputs where each motor will have around 450n/m of torque apiece — we’re at 320n/m at the moment. This is our first week.
“We will check the car and rebuild as well as upgrade parts as needed while Formula E tests in Valencia next week. After that, we’re back on track and the goal is to cover as much mileage as we can between now and the first event.”
Development of the ODYSSEY 21 prototype will continue apace ahead of delivery of 12 cars from Spark Racing Technology to teams next summer. Group testing is planned to take place in the fall of 2020 before competitors board Extreme E’s unique floating garage, the RMS St. Helena, ahead of the opening race in February 2021.