Audi will soon be saying goodbye to Formula E. The German marque announced they will no longer field a factory team at the all-electric, open-wheel series after the 2021 season. Instead, they will be kicking up sand in the desert by joining the famous Dakar Rally in 2022 with an electric “innovative prototype” as teased by the sketch above.

The German brand has yet to announce specific details about the vehicle nor its electric drivetrain. Based on the silhouette, it looks like it will take on the form of an SUV with chunky all-terrain tires. It’s hard to tell which model it will be based on since the rally-spec SUV is still covered. But what’s more interesting is the electric powertrain.

According to Audi, their 2022 Dakar challenger will use an electric powertrain featuring an “energy converter” to charge the batteries in the form of a “highly efficient” turbocharged gasoline engine. Based on this description, Audi’s Dakar challenger appears to be a hybrid rather than a pure EV. The turbocharged engine will also serve as a range extender instead of powering the vehicle itself – somewhat similar to Nissan’s e-Power powertrain.

By joining the 2022 Dakar Rally, Audi aims “to permanently improve the performance of the electric drivetrain and the battery in the years to come”. They add that the experience and learnings gained from joining the sport will be incorporated in future electrified Audi production models. It seems the company’s entry to Dakar won’t just be a one-time thing.

Aside from Dakar, it seems Audi is planning a return to Le Mans 24 Hours following their exit in 2016. Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH says that the team is “intensively preparing” to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh including the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Dakar Rally will not be easy for Audi considering Toyota is one of the favored competitors following their 2019 win. Aside from Toyota, last year’s winner was rally-legend Carlos Sainz with the Mini JCW Buggy. Still, Audi has a lot of rally experience back in the 80s and 90s with the World Rally Championship.

Do you think Audi can beat Toyota, Carlos Sainz, and more at Dakar with a hybrid? Let us know in the comments below.