• Jen Booton

Pro Rally Driver Ken Block Shreds Saudi Desert With Extreme E SUV

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

Extreme E's electric SUV makes its first competitive debut in the harsh Saudi desert.

Pro Rally driver Ken Block, who is known for his stunt series Gymkhana that twice had him speeding down China’s most dangerous roads, has taken Extreme E’s off-road electric SUV for a spin in the Saudi Arabian desert. Block won Rookie of the Year in the Rally America Championship in 2005 and accumulated five X Games medals over 15 appearances from 2006 through 2013. At the 2020 Dakar Rally in January, he drove Extreme E's inaugural racing SUV, Odyssey 21. The rally, which tests drivers over 7000 kilometers of harsh desert terrains, was the first competitive outing for the SUV known affectionately as the “electric beast.” Block competed in the “future alternative category,” which also included e-bikes, e-trucks and hybrid cars, on the final 20-kilometer leg of the 12-day Dakar Rally. Extreme E, an all-electric off-road racing series, said it chose the Dakar Rally to support the organization's commitment to electric cars. Saudi Arabia will also host the desert leg of Extreme E when it debuts in 2021.

Block said the car was really fun to drive.

“I’m so used to the combustion engine where you’re trying to really build up the turboboost," he said. "This is just so instant; it’s putting power down sooner than I would think. It's just a matter of adapting my calibrations to what this thing’s capable of.”

Extreme E said Block’s demonstration provided critical test data for Odyssey 21 manufacturer Spark Racing Technology. The Odyssey 21’s peak 400kw output is capable of firing the nearly two-ton car from 0-62 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130%. The company said it was "quite a process getting set up in the desert."