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Rwanda welcomes electric VW

Four e-Golfs and one charging station were unveiled for the initial phase of the pilot project

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The Volkswagen brand has launched a pilot project in partnership with Siemens to test the feasibility of electric mobility in an African country.

The pilot project, which will form part of Volkswagen’s operations in Rwanda, was announced in th capital city, Kigali, this week by Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa and responsible for the Sub-Sahara Africa Region. He was joined at the announcement by the Prime Minister of Rwanda, Dr Edouard Ngirente.

During the pilot phase, four e-Golfs and one charging station will be introduced in Kigali. Volkswagen has signed a joint development agreement with Siemens to provide the charging infrastructure for the electric cars.

With the launch of the pilot project, Rwanda becomes the first African country to introduce a Volkswagen electric car.

“The success of our innovative and pioneering mobility solutions business has shown us that Rwanda has the potential to leapfrog the internal combustion engines into electric cars,” said Schäfer. “Rwanda has a young and progressive population that appreciates individual and modern mobility. Together with our development partner Siemens and with the support from the Government of Rwanda, Volkswagen wants to make the e-Golf pilot project in Rwanda a blueprint for electric mobility in Africa.”

Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO for Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa said: “Our partnership with Volkswagen on this project solidifies our commitment not only to Rwanda but to the East Africa region. By contributing towards shaping the African market for intelligent, adaptive infrastructure, while addressing skills challenges in this sector, Siemens is helping to build a more sustainable future for the people of Rwanda.”

The pilot e-Golfs will be added into the Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda fleet to provide customised mobility service.

The plan is to increase the number of the electric cars to 50 units and 15 charging stations, depending on the outcomes of the pilot project.

The drivers and technicians who will be working with the electric cars have received specialised training in preparation for launch of the pilot project.

“Africa’s youth need sustainable jobs and better prospects for a future in their home countries'” said Dr. Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Therefore, German development cooperation supports innovative ideas for vocational education and environmentally friendly mobility concepts for African cities. In this respect, initiatives such as Moving Rwanda are yet another step towards implementing the Marshall Plan with Africa.”

The electric mobility project was developed within the Moving Rwanda initiative, a cooperation between Volkswagen, Siemens, SAP and Inros Lackner and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. GIZ supported the e-mobility project by bringing together relevant partners from the private and public sector and by advising on the development benefits of the project.

The Moving Rwanda Initiative was established as A result of Volkswagen’s initial investment in Rwanda, which saw the launch of Africa’s first Integrated Mobility Solutions business in June 2018.

Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda offers mobility solutions services such as ride-hailing and corporate car sharing. The services are offered on the Move App, an innovative IT mobility solution which was developed by a local IT start-up company, Awesomity Lab. 

The services are offered using a fleet of vehicles assembled at Volkswagen Rwanda’s assembly facility in Kigali. By the end of 2019, Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda will have a fleet of more than 200 vehicles, consisting of Polo, Amarok, Teramont and Passat.

Move App has about 27,000 registered users. Over 59,500 rides have been completed in the ride-hailing service since the beginning of 2019.

Cars

For users, in-car touchscreens ever more useless

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As touchscreens become more commonplace, the gulf of perceived differences in the performance of these features between cars and other devices (such as mobile and in-home) has become wider. A new report from the In-Vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics has investigated car owners’ satisfaction with their on-board touchscreens. Long hamstrung by poor UX and extended production cycles, in-car touchscreens are seen by car users and buyers as lagging behind the experience offered by touchscreens outside the car. As such, consumer satisfaction has continued to slide in China and Europe, while reaching historic lows in the US.

Surveying consumers in the US, Western Europe, and China via web-survey, key report findings include:

  • Difficult text entry and excessive fingerprint smudging are common complaints among all car owners.
  • Because touchscreens have reached market saturation in the US, satisfaction with in-car screens has tailed off significantly.
  • However, touchscreens remain a relatively newer phenomenon in many car models in Western Europe (compared with the US) and thus their limitations are less prominent in the minds of car owners.
  • Overall touchscreen satisfaction fell for the fifth straight year in China, indicating a growing impatience for in-car UX to match UX found elsewhere in the consumer electronics space.

Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author, says, “Part of the issue with fingerprint smudging is the angle at which in-car touchscreens are installed – they make every fingerprint increasingly visible.

“Fingerprint smudging is an issue across all touchscreen-based consumer electronics. But in most form factors and especially mobile devices, consumers can quite easily adjust their viewing angle. This is not always the case with fixed in-car screens.”

Says Chris Schreiner, Director, Syndicated Research UXIP, “Although hardware quality certainly figures in many of the usual complaints car owners have about their screens, it is not the sole factor. Cockpit layout and UI design can play important roles in mitigating some issues with in-car touchscreens.”

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Volvo to use blockchain to trace battery cobalt

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Volvo Cars will become the first carmaker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. The announcement follows the reveal last month of the company’s first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge.

Traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by carmakers. Volvo says its committed to full traceability, ensuring that customers can drive electrified Volvos knowing the material for the batteries has been sourced responsibly.

“It is a mineral that is essential to the production of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars,” says Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Cars South Africa. “But, sadly, it has long been suspected that some of the cobalt comes from mines that don’t use ethical mining practices. Now, thanks to blockchain traceability, we will know that the cobalt has been sourced responsibly. We are the first and only vehicle manufacturer that can make this statement. Accordingly, South African motorists who buy a Volvo in our XC90 T8 range can do so with pride – with the guaranteed knowledge that only ethical mining practices have taken place in the cobalt supply chain.”

Blockchain technology, which establishes a transparent and reliable shared data network, significantly boosts transparency of the raw material supply chain as the information about the material’s origin cannot be changed undetected.

Volvo Cars has now reached an agreement with its two global battery suppliers, CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea, and leading global blockchain technology firms to implement traceability of cobalt starting this year.

Technology firms Circulor and Oracle operate the blockchain technology across CATL’s supply chain following a successful pilot earlier this summer, while the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN), together with responsible sourcing specialists RCS Global and IBM, is rolling out the technology in LG Chem’s supply chain.

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” says Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

A blockchain is a digital ledger containing a list of records linked to each other via cryptography. Within supply chains, the technology creates records of transactions, which cannot be changed while also enforcing a common set of rules for what data can be recorded. This allows participants to verify and audit transactions independently.

In this particular case, data in the blockchain include the cobalt’s origin, attributes such as weight and size, the chain of custody and information establishing that participants’ behavior is consistent with OECD supply chain guidelines. This approach helps create trust between participants along a supply chain.

Volvo Cars last month launched the XC40 Recharge, the first of an upcoming family of fully electric cars under the Recharge banner. By 2025, it expects half of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

Last month, Volvo Cars also launched an ambitious climate plan, which includes a radical reduction of carbon emissions by 40% per vehicle by 2025, as well as a continued commitment to ethical business across its entire operations and supply chain.

CATL and LG Chem are renowned battery manufacturers, both with long and successful track records supplying lithium-ion batteries to the global automotive industry. They fulfil Volvo Cars’ strict sourcing guidelines in terms of technology leadership, responsible supply chains, reduction of carbon emissions and competitive cost models.

The agreements between Volvo Cars, CATL and LG Chem cover the supply of batteries over the coming decade for next-generation Volvo and Polestar models, including the XC40 Recharge.

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