Citroen has begun testing a hybrid, partially electric-powered, version of its C4 WRC car.
The C4 WRC HYbrid4 was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last October, and has now completed its first test on a proper rally stage with factory driver Dani Sordo at the wheel.
The car features a 990-cell Ion Lithium battery and a 125 kW electric motor in addition to its usual gasoline engine. It can function in normal internal combustion mode, or can recover energy under braking to use as a boost via the electric engine when additional torque is required. Citroen has also designed the electric mode to be used on road sections between stages.
Citroen engineer Didier Raso said the machine remained a concept car at present, but that the company was preparing for the likelihood of environmentally-friendly technologies being mandated in the World Rally Championship in the future.
"Citroen Racing wanted to show its ability to adapt this technology to motorsport," Raso explained. "If at any point in the future the regulations permit the use of hybrid technology, we will be able to react straight away."
Sordo tested the car on an asphalt stage near Faro immediately after last weekend's Rally of Portugal, as well as using it in electric mode on a public road.
"In electric mode, you can drive through villages without making the slightest noise, which is very unusual for a competition car," said Sordo. "It's better for the environment and also more comfortable for the crew, making road sections more pleasant.
"On the stages, I would say that the overall behavior of the car is slightly different to that of the C4 WRC, with more weight to the rear."
The Spaniard also tried out the electric boost function.
"When it comes in, the effect is impressive," he said.
Sordo added that other than the change in weight distribution and the advantage of boost, the car generally responded similarly to his regular C4 WRC.
"The feeling is on the whole the same as the one I have with the standard rally car," he concluded.