Generally speaking, rally events exist to test the capabilities of both car and driver, often among the most grueling conditions imaginable. Like biological evolution on an accelerated scale, rally racing improves the breed, starting with race cars and trickling down into production cars.

The same philosophy applies to the Silvretta E-Car Rally, which exists to push the boundaries of current electric car technology. Now in its third year, the 2012 Silvretta Rally promises to be even more challenging than past events, with longer distances, greater elevation changes and steeper climbs than in years past.

Mercedes-Benz will enter multiple cars in this year’s event, including the SLS AMG E-Cell, its electric supercar scheduled to hit the market in 2013, Other entries from Mercedes-Benz include a pair of A-Class E-Cell vehicles, a pair of B-Class F-Cell (hydrogen fuel cell) vehicles and a pair of Smart fortwo electric drive cars.

The three day rally, which began on July 5, runs through the mountain passes of Montafon, Austria. The overall length of this year’s rally stretches to 330 kilometers (205 miles), an increase of 10-percent over last years event.

Drivers and cars aren’t judged on maximum speed over a stage, but are graded on precision from checkpoint to checkpoint. Climbs include grades of over 15-percent, and daily elevation changes can be as extreme as 4,759 meters.

Ensuring that the SLS AMG E-Cell, which boasts the equivalent of 526 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque, has the best chance of crossing the finish line first is the job of  AMG brand ambassador and retired F1 driver Karl Wendlinger. Since Wendlinger is an Austrian native, we’re betting that the deck is more than slightly stacked in his favor.