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Electric cars take on Africa

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The Electric Explorer African Challenge 2018, the first electric vehicle expedition ever across Africa kicked off last week in an effort to build awareness of electric mobility and new, cleaner technologies among the public in Africa.

Contemporary electric vehicles boast a driving range of about 250 kilometers. This is enough to use a car in urban traffic for up to a week or to travel from Cape Town to Swellendam free from range anxiety. In the advanced version, vehicles such as Nissan LEAF make it possible to cover the distance between the UK and Mongolia. In the highly advanced version, an attempt can be made to cross Africa, as planned by Polish travellers Arkady Fiedler and Albert Wójtowicz.

The Electric Explorer African Challenge 2018, the first electric vehicle expedition ever across Africa, commenced at the end of last week.The famous Polish traveler Arkady Paweł Fiedler has taken the wheel, accompanied by Albert Wójtowicz, a photographer and cameraman. The main hero of their unique expedition is the Nissan LEAF. The vehicle is not modified in any way; it is exactly the same as the car you can buy from a showroom.

Travelling across Africa is probably the hardest test for any vehicle, not only an EV. Poor roads, limited charging infrastructure and dramatically diverse weather conditions – from equatorial storms to the scorching heat of the Sahara – these are just a few challenges that we’ll have to face during the expedition. We’re optimistic anyway. As part of the tests, I’ve already travelled over 4,000 kilometres in Poland in a Nissan LEAF, and I’m positively surprised by the driving range offered,” said Arkady Paweł Fiedler.

The expedition started in Cape Town last week and will lead to Europe, along Western Africa, via South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and Morocco, and finally across western Europe to Poland.

The Nissan LEAF is the most popular electric vehicle in the world. The first generation of the model was launched on the market as early as 8 years ago, and Nissan EV drivers have already done more than 3 billion zero-emission kilometres in total. The design tested by hundreds of thousands of drivers can be trusted without hesitation, which I believe will be best proven by the Electric Explorer African Challenge 2018,” adds Dorota Pajączkowska, Nissan PR Manager Poland.

Apart from being the first ever electric vehicle journey across the African continent, the expedition also aims to build awareness of electric mobility and new, cleaner technologies among the public in Africa, Poland, and the world at large. It is also important to show that the way of perceiving the world and human choices, such as the means of transport, have a great impact on our environment.

Care of the environment, home, family starts with us, with our subjective decisions. The journey is also to prove that often something apparently impossible to do can be achieved given appropriate attitude and determination.”

Owing to the huge challenge of looking for appropriate electric sockets to fill the battery with electricity, which is increasingly less of a problem in Europe year on year, we’ll have to rely on help from people we meet along the way. Without support from Africans, the expedition may fail,” recaps Fiedler.

Expedition participants:

  • Arkady Paweł Fiedler – originator and organiser of the expedition, and driver of the expedition vehicle. Grandson of the outstanding writer and traveller Arkady Fiedler. Passionate for automotive expeditions, producer of travel films, photographer. Originator and organiser of the PoDrodze (On the Way) film-and-travel project. 2009 – Along the Polish Borders in Maluch, 2014 – Across Africa in Maluch (project nominated for the National Geographic TRAVELERYS Award), 2016 – Across Asia in Maluch.
  • Albert Wójtowicz – architect by profession, photographer and cameraman by avocation, responsible for video and photo records of the expedition. Photographer of the film and travel project OnTheWay – Across Africa In Maluch 2014 and Across Asia in Maluch 2016.
  • Nissan LEAF – the world’s most popular electric vehicle, with more than 300,000 cars manufactured so far. The generation now widely available for sale, powered by a 30 kWh battery, offers a range of up to 250 kilometres (NEDC). September 2017 saw a new release of the model to be launched in Europe in the first half of 2018.

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Girls get 50,000 toy cars to combat stereotypes

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“That’s for boys, not for girls” – a social stigma Mercedes-Benz USA and Mattel are determined to change, and they are hoping that donating 50,000 toy cars can help. Kicking off today for National STEM/STEAM Day, 50,000 young girls across the nation will engage in programs to challenge gender stereotypes that research shows can impact decisions later in life. It’s all part of “No Limits,” an initiative created by Mercedes-Benz in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), a network of organizations that encourages girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

The first “No Limits” programs launch today with special workshops in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City, where thousands of young children will be inspired to think outside of the box when it comes to career aspirations. Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.

As a tangible reminder that they can do anything they set their minds to, MBUSA and Mattel will gift 50,000 Matchbox die-cast toy replicas of a very special Mercedes-Benz 220SE to participating children. It was in this car that Ewy Rosqvist defied all odds to become the first woman to compete in and win one of the most grueling races, the Argentinian Grand Prix, shattering records and the notion that women could not compete.

“Whatever they aspire to be – an astronaut, engineer, judge, nurse, even the President, we want all children to dream big, dream bold and never give up on that dream,” said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services for MBUSA. “We’ve seen that stories like Ewy’s – championing women trailblazers and achievers – can have a big impact by calling into question the gender stereotypes that children may inadvertently adopt.”

In fact, according to the National Science Board, women only represent 29% of the current science and engineering workforce. When asked their reasons for not majoring in STEM, young women often cite a lack of encouragement and role models.

“The No Limits initiative is important to the future success of our young girls,” said Karen Peterson founder and CEO of the NGCP. “Demand for workers with STEM-based skills is rapidly growing, yet women are still significantly underrepresented in these fields. We know that gender associations are formed at a very young age. We applaud Mercedes-Benz and Mattel in their efforts to breakdown the gender stereotypes that keep young girls from engaging in STEM studies.”

Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz released a video capturing young girls designating an assortment of traditionally gendered toys. After being shown the short film, Ewy Rosqvist: An Unexpected Champion, each girl has a visible attitude shift towards toys they previously identified as just “for boys.”

Last month, Digital Girl, Inc., a Brooklyn-based non-profit dedicated to empowering the underserved youth of New York City, especially young girls, to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields, tested this theory with similar results. A new video documents the results as the girls realize that they can be the next generation of female trailblazers and they themselves talk about the need to inspire more girls.

“Our goal is to inspire children to imagine all that they can become and break down gender stereotypes in the toy aisle with purpose-driven programs like this,” said Amanda Moldavon, Senior Director, Vehicles Brand Creative. “Most people don’t know that the creator of Matchbox made the first vehicle for his daughter who was only allowed to bring toys to school that fit inside a matchbox. So, from its origin, it has been an inclusive way for kids to explore the world around them.”

More than 100 organizations across the country will participate in No Limits including Atlanta Public Schools, Digital Girl, Inc., Beyond the Bell, among others. A list of all participating organizations can be found here. A discussion guide is available for those who have an opportunity to encourage and mentor young children and would like to help advance this conversation.

In addition to the toy cars that will be gifted by MBUSA and Mattel (also in support of closing the Dream Gap) through the National Girls Collaborative, the Ewy Matchbox toy replica will be sold in stores nationwide beginning in December. Follow the No Limits initiative on social using #GirlsHaveNoLimits.

Both “No Limits” videos were produced by R/GA, New York.

About Ewy Rosqvist

Ewy Rosqvist is a Swedish racing champion who in 1962 made history for being the first woman to enter and win one of the toughest rallies in the world. After watching her husband race for years, she decided to take it up herself and entered the Argentinian Grand Prix – a gruelling three-day journey across rough terrain. Ewy was ridiculed for entering the race and told she wouldn’t be able to complete the course. Not only did she finish, she went on to be the first person to win every stage of the race, set a speed record and beat the previous champion by over three hours.

About Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), the sales and marketing arm for Mercedes-Benz in the United States and headquartered in Atlanta, is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz products in the United States from the sporty A-Class sedan to the flagship S-Class and the Mercedes-AMG GT R.

MBUSA’s philanthropic focus is on educating and empowering youth. On a national level, the company supports Laureus Sport for Good which uses sports to help at-risk youth and the Johnny Mac Soldier’s Fund which provides scholarships to children of the fallen military.

In Atlanta, MBUSA is involved with over 50 organizations in its effort to educate and empower the next generation to achieve success and address local needs in its community, particularly Atlanta’s Westside, the area surrounding the Mercedes-Benz Stadium that includes under-resourced neighbourhoods. MBUSA has won numerous awards for its community efforts including, A Gold Stevie® Award for its Greatness Lives Here campaign, Corporate Champion Tree recognition from Trees Atlanta and a Community Impact Award from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

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Keeping tabs on Mini from afar

The Mini Cooper Clubman is putting the ‘remote’ in ‘remote control’. The Mini Connected Drive option pushes all the right buttons, finds BRYAN TURNER.

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While Mini has had Connected Drive Remote Services on board for just over a year now, the Cooper Clubman reveals how powerful such technology can be. From remote controlled car commands like locking and unlocking, to car servicing details, it makes complete sense to add this option to one’s Mini configuration for additional peace of mind.

The Cooper Clubman shows off a slightly different configuration of the Connected Drive system that seems to be slightly more streamlined than before. To pair the car to a phone, one needs to download the Mini Connected Drive app from the App Store for iPhone or Play Store for Android. The app is different from the BMW Connected Drive app.

Once the app is installed, users create a Mini account. The app will then request the last seven characters of the Mini’s vehicle identification number. Because this is a public-facing number, the car confirms that it is connecting by displaying another code on the infotainment screen. After confirming that code in the app, Mini will confirm the car’s registration on their servers. This process takes about five minutes.

While this sounds like quite a process, it’s really simple, and ensures the connected car isn’t hacked. This is crucial because the car is fitted with 4G/LTE, making it Internet-facing to ensure users can control it from virtually anywhere. This process shows a carefully thought-out user design that’s focused on security.

The app’s home view provides an intuitive way of checking up on the car while the driver is away. It allows users to lock and unlock the car while away, which is useful for those who worry about whether their cars are locked while they’re far from their vehicles. It also helps drivers find their cars in parking lots. One can either select the discreet option of remotely activating the headlamps, or go a bit louder by activating the horn remotely.

For those who don’t know the approximate location of their car, one can activate the Locate Vehicle feature, which uses the car’s GPS to send a map location back to the app.

Thinking about how hot one’s car is going to be, especially when parking it in the sun, is no longer something Mini Connected Drive users have to worry about. Users can either activate ventilation remotely to cool the car before they get in, or schedule ventilation for later in the day if they know when an appointment is going to end. One can also get a notification on the smartphone, or smartwatch, when the car has cooled to the requested temperature.

A pre-ride check can be done from the app, by checking the tyre pressure and engine oil without going near the car. This can also be done on the infotainment panel from within the car.

Typing in destinations can be performed from the app, which makes it more comfortable when inputting longer addresses, compared to typing in on the infotainment touchscreen. If calendar appointments hold address information, the address automatically syncs and appears on the infotainment screen for single-tap navigation. Favourites for the on-board navigation can be set from the app as well.

One can also install specific apps to the infotainment system via the Connected Drive app. These include Spotify, Deezer, Audible, and Life 360. The apps are certified and optimised by Mini to be used from the infotainment system.

On the top-of-the-range John Cooper Works performance kit, it comes standard with keyless ride, and a redesigned graphical display called Radio Mini Visual Boost. The infotainment panel is a 6.5 inch touchscreen with a separate scroll wheel controller. An option called Connected Navigation Plus offers a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen, with real-time traffic updates, a personal concierge service, wireless charging for smartphones, and includes Apple CarPlay. 

CarPlay allows iPhone users to access iPhone apps from the touchscreen, which makes navigation with Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps possible. One can also talk to Siri while driving, to send messages or make calls. The CarPlay option can also work wirelessly, in addition to the regular cable connected option. Unfortunately, Android users are out of luck with Android Auto connectivity. That said, all the other features, like Bluetooth audio and contact sync, still work perfectly with the system

The Mini Connected Drive app offers a highly convenient method of checking on and controlling one’s Mini while away.

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