Friday, 20 March 2020

History made by the Riwald Dakar Team with first hybrid off-road truck.

PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team.
Gert Huzink from the Riwald Dakar Team fielded the first hybrid off-road truck at the 42nd edition of the world's toughest race; the Dakar Rally.

Riwald, a Dutch recycling company run by Gert Huzink and brother Ewald are responsible for the innovative idea of racing a hybrid-powered off-road truck at the Dakar Rally.

In 2019, after months of working on and developing the off-road truck in partnership with ZF and MKR Technology. The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition was unveiled, and after weeks of testing, it was ready for action.

The C460 Hybrid Edition went toe to toe with diesel-powered juggernauts over the course of 12 stages. The lightweight off-road truck weighing in at 8.5 tones includes 700-kilo hybrid technology that produces an additional 20 horsepower.

History was made when the Riwald Dakar Team #507 hybrid off-road truck set off for it’s first Dakar Stage. The team ended stage one in 42nd place but steadily improved as the rally-raid progressed. On the 10th stage of the rally, the team secured a fourth-place finish, which saw the team climb up to 24th overall at the end of the Dakar Rally.

Speaking to Junaid Samodien (Slipstream SA), Gert Huzink driver of the #507 Hybrid truck explained where his and the teams Dakar Rally story began, saying, “Our first Dakar was the 2012 edition. In the first three years, we were a car-team with the former Mitsubishi Factory Team. We bought the cars and started our semi-professional Dakar team with 3 drivers (Bernard ten Brinke, Erik Wevers and myself) After three years we switched to trucks.”

The Dakar Rally is the world's toughest race. But why would anyone sign up to compete? So, I asked Gert why his team opted to compete in the Dakar over any other motorsport category. “We have chosen the most difficult rally because for us it was the challenge to show that we can finish this tough rally,” he said. “After competing for several years the goal is, therefore, to finish as high as possible. Dakar must be hard and stay hard in order to continue to meet this challenge.”

The Dakar has always been a particularly demanding laboratory for constructors looking to innovate. Today, rally-raids act as an exceptional test bench for all forms of technology including hybrid and electric vehicles, as seen with the all-electric Acciona Dakar entry.

Being the first team to enter the rally-raid with hybrid power. Where did the idea come from to build and race a hybrid truck? “Because we live in a world where sustainability is becoming a daily and important issue and we (as Riwald Recycling company) think highly of these subjects,” Huzink said. “Therefore we want to show that the toughest rally in the world also can be driven in a sustainable, greener and environmentally conscious way and also compete for the top 10.”

While it is all well and good to have an idea to build and construct a new vehicle, lots of testing is often required to ensure that there are no failures or at least failures can be solved before the event.

The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition underwent thorough testing, Huzink said, “A new truck obviously should be well-tested and because the Netherlands is not suitable for this heavy-duty-testing, we do it abroad. This takes lots of time and a lot of budget, but it is necessary to get as much information from our trucks and drivers as possible.”

“We try to enter three races a year besides the Dakar Rally,” he adds. “With the new hybrid project, we have previously done a lot of testing activities to test the new parts on longevity. In general: all rally's during the year are tests for us as a team and for the truck as well. In total it costs us 10 weeks a year and for us as a semi-professional team that’s obviously a lot!”

The Riwald Dakar Team has a number of partners who have assisted in the construction and development of their hybrid-powered truck but has Renault had any involvement in the development of the hybrid powertrain. Gert Huzink says that there were a number of partners involved in the project including “leader and co-inventor Mario Kress of MKR Technology who works closely with Renault, ZF and Eurol Lubricants.”
Gert Huzink #507 powering ahead of Kamaz-Master teams Dmitry Sotnikov #507
PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team

Being a creation of Mario Kress in collaboration with ZF, Euro Lubricants and the Riwald Dakar Team, I asked Gert Huzink how is the power/energy harvested and deployed over the course of a Dakar Rally stage.

“Each new development is always exciting and certainly in a Dakar Rally as it is challenging to start driving hybrid!” Huzink said. “Power is created by an electric motor that is powered by the gearbox from ZF and that power is stored in an additional 300-kilogram battery pack.”

“When we wish to use it it will be converted as additional horsepower.”

How much additional power is created by the electric motors? “The electric motor can add more than 200 horsepower extra,” he adds.

“It is unique that the batteries are not being charged the normal way, but by driving! When we hit the brakes or we have a decent, we charge the accumulators by means of the electric motor. We benefit the whole stage from this hybrid technology.”

Huzink adds that the hybrid technology adds to the overall fuel efficiency of his off-road truck: “This also brings fuel savings with about 30% and of course fewer emissions to the environment.”

Being the first to enter the Dakar Rally with hybrid power, how does it compare to the standard diesel-powered entries. He said: “The C460 is a completely new truck and therefore more innovations beyond the hybrid system. This brings several advantages over our previous truck.”

“In total: it's good progress and we see also that our average speed has gone up, especially the direct power of the electric motor when we turn out of corners. That's the biggest difference.”

The Riwald Dakar Team and MKR Technology entered into a three-year partnership with the aim of achieving a top-three ranking within the three-year timeframe. With four top-ten finishes in 2020, I asked Gert how he would assess the teams first-ever Dakar with a hybrid-powered truck.

“With every new project it's always 'wait and see' how the first race will end,” he said. “Also therefore for us it was exciting, our ambitions are always high and it is a pity that we encountered trouble with one driveshaft on the first day.”

“The days to follow we had to prove our hybrid truck is one of the fastest trucks in the field. We've managed to do that, so we're happy with that. All in all this one big learning process and we are eager to show more of our hybrid truck, the C460.”

Having seen the benefits of competing with hybrid power, and two diesel-powered trucks in 2020 under the Riwald Dakar Team banner. I asked Gert if we could potentially see a full fleet of Riwald Dakar Renault Hybrid C460’s in 2021.

“The goal will be to see more and more hybrid trucks at the start of a rally like Dakar in the future,” he said. “But because we are an amateur team that will be done step-by-step. We've made way for more hybrid trucks in different rally's and also in the normal road as well.”

Having entered it’s first Dakar with hybrid power, the Riwald Dakar Team can only get stronger after learning about the limitations and potential issues it may have had in 2020.

We can not wait to see the return of the Riwald Dakar Team in 2021!

A very special 'Thank You' to Gert Huzink for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to the Riwald Dakar PR team for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Photograph Credit and Copyright - Riwald Dakar Team

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