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This week’s entry in the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week series isn’t a minivan, it’s a mini-van. And amazingly, the company claims it can carry up to nine passengers – though you might need to start measuring each other if you plan to actually cram that many people into this little electric van.

You see, this definitely isn’t a full-size van, even though you might mistake it for a typical contractor van at a passing glance.

OK, a very passing glance.

From a distance, though, you might be fooled by the scale. With eight windows and either two or three doors depending on the model, the little electric mini-van looks nearly job-ready.

It’s even outfitted with the typical accoutrements you might expect, like mirrors, wiper (just the one), roll-up windows, backup camera, and a full light package.

But when you get closer, you realize just how small this thing really is.

It’s only 3.6 meters (11’9″) long, putting it about one salad plate shorter than a Mini Electric.

Inside you’ll find a pair of captain’s chairs up front and then two long benches in back, where the company claims you can fit another seven passengers SWAT-team style.

As you can see from the photos, the two benches aren’t exactly roomy church pews. I assume they expect you to load the back up with kids, or perhaps seven adults that are extremely comfortable with each other.

One cool feature is that the benches fold up against the sidewalls.

That means you can load the back up with cargo – or perhaps go for the record and stuff a baker’s dozen passengers back there.

I tried to pitch this van to my publisher as the perfect second car for parents in charge of the neighborhood carpool. He wasn’t buying it though, sarcastically retorting that it “looks like it has 5-star crash test rating written all over it.”

Fair enough, but maybe that just makes everyone a safer driver when they know the stakes are higher.

In terms of performance, you’ll find fairly typical Chinese mini-car figures. The factory can spec the vehicle with up to a 5,000W (6.7 horsepower) electric motor.

With that much power, putting the pedal to the plastic gets you a blistering top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). I’m still waiting for an answer from the factory regarding whether that top speed is measured with a single driver or with eight screaming passengers on board.

And I know what you’re probably thinking: “Six horsepower doesn’t sound like very much for a van – especially one designed to carry around half a kindergarten class. This thing probably couldn’t even climb a steep, rusty ramp obstacle that looks like it was stolen from a shady bicycle park.”

That’s exactly what I was thinking too! At least until I saw the demonstration video below provided by the factory.

Jokes aside, that’s actually some impressive climbing for this little fellow!

How far can this electric van travel on a charge?

What good is a high-capacity electric mini-van if it doesn’t have decent range?

Our little van here is powered by a 60V and 120Ah bank of 12V lead acid batteries, adding up to 7.2 kWh of capacity. That’s actually pretty decent, and it’s the same amount of battery capacity you’ll find crammed into many of Zero’s electric motorcycles here in the US.

The factory claims that’s enough battery for 120 km (75 miles) of range.

Those lead acid batteries are old tech, though, so a new lithium battery upgrade would be a big win. You could toss in a half dozen 60V 20Ah lithium-ion batteries to save a ton of weight and improve your battery pack’s range and lifespan. Each brick seems to cost around $180 these days from the usual budget sources – not too shabby.

To really increase your range, though, you’ll want to check out their solar panel option. The factory claims that the giant panel can add 40 km (25 mi) of range per day with decent sun. That’s almost as much solar charger per day as Aptera’s crazy three-wheeled solar-powered vehicle.

This mini-van certainly costs a lot less than the Aptera, at just $4,000 for the base model or $4,800 for the slightly longer version.

As much as I love this funny little electric mini-van, I’m not sure what I’d do with it.

I only have five nieces and nephews – definitely not enough to test the full nine-passenger capacity of the van.

The only other use I can think of for me is that it would actually be great for utility jobs. Like for example, last year I bought a ton of candy for halloween but we didn’t get many trick-or-treaters due to COVID. I’ve been looking for a way to distribute it to the neighborhood kids, and a slow-moving cargo van like this would be perfect. I just need to think of some type of sign to put on it so everyone knows I’m giving out treats.

Nailed it.

Can you really buy stuff like this on Alibaba?

My regular readers know that this column is lighthearted and not meant to convince anyone to actually buy these things. I’m not saying anyone should pull out their credit card and start googling sea freight prices.

Of course some people actually have bought my Awesomely Weird Alibaba EV finds, and the results are usually pretty worth it. Hell, I’ve even accidentally convinced myself to buy some of these things.

But if anyone actually does want to go down that path, know that the advertised prices on Alibaba are just the beginning. You’ll usually get nickeled-and-dimed along the way, then there will be exorbitant shipping charges, and lastly you’ll still need to fork over for a customs broker and final delivery from your closest port to your home.

If you’re prepared for that, my best advice is to communicate slowly and carefully with the vendor to ensure you’re both on the same page. Then prepare for a long wait and a rollercoaster ride until your fancy new electric mini-van finally shows up.

While you wait, why don’t you check out some of my other fun Awesomely Weird EVs below. And if you should discover any of your own that you think I should check out, shoot me a message! You can find my contact info in my author bio below.


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Rebel Moon: Zack Snyder and Ed Skrein on ‘mad’ reaction and ‘media storms’ following first movie

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Rebel Moon: Zack Snyder and Ed Skrein on 'mad' reaction and 'media storms' following first movie

British actor Ed Skrein says he hasn’t paid attention to any of the reactions Rebel Moon has received online.

The Deadpool star told Sky News: “The weather system of media storms does not affect me, I don’t live in the media.”

Ed Skrein as Atticus Noble in Rebel Moon. Pic: Netflix
Image:
Ed Skrein as Atticus Noble in Rebel Moon. Pic: Netflix

The first instalment of Zack Snyder’s new franchise had a limited theatrical release before being added to Netflix in December last year.

The movie was the recipient of some less-favourable reviews, a 21% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and it averaged a two out of five-star score from over 100,000 accounts on Letterboxd.

The actor, who plays Admiral Atticus Noble in the franchise, says it’s the art itself that maintains his attention.

“The process of filming is my bit, you know, when we were out there, that’s my part.”

He adds: “I’ll pass the baton on and let people run with it.”

More on Netflix

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Skrein returns for Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver despite his character meeting his fate in the first film.

“My friend is a painter from Andalusia in Spain and said to me the other day, when we make art, it’s like putting a message in a bottle and you throw it out and occasionally after a while you get a message back or you just get your bottle back.”

He continues: “In filmmaking, I thought about it, it’s like you have your initial reaction but then five years later, 10 years later, it’s like, now we can judge it.”

Djimon Hounsou as Titus and Staz Nair as Tarak. Pic: Clay Enos/Netflix
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Djimon Hounsou as Titus and Staz Nair as Tarak. Pic: Clay Enos/Netflix

Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver continues with the storyline of orphan and ex-soldier Kora, played by Sofia Boutella, who looks to protect a peaceful colony from the ruthless Mother World.

Inspired by a rejection

Aside from Skrein, the cast includes Game Of Thrones Staz Nair, Gladiator actor Djimon Hounsou and The Age of Adeline’s Michiel Huisman.

The Rebel Moon franchise came into being after director Zack Snyder pitched the idea to Disney as a Star Wars film, but was rejected.

Pic: Clay Enos/Netflix
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Rhian Rees as The Queen, Cary Elwes as The King, Sofia Boutella as Kora and Stella Grace Fitzgerald as Princess Issa. Pic: Clay Enos/Netflix

He signed an agreement with Netflix to create an entirely new franchise with the plan to extend into other formats like comic books.

The Army Of The Dead director recently went viral for his comments comparing the success of the first Rebel Moon film to Barbie, suggesting to the Joe Rogan podcast that “more people probably saw Rebel Moon than saw Barbie in the theatre”.

‘Everyone got mad at me’

Speaking to Sky News, he stands by the statement and says he’s “really impressed” by Netflix‘s business model.

Zack Snyder talking at the Rebel Moon Part Two: Songs Of The Rebellion Album release event in New York. Pic: Noam Galai/Netflix
Image:
Zack Snyder talking at the Rebel Moon Part Two: Songs Of The Rebellion Album release event in New York. Pic: Noam Galai/Netflix

He explains: “I think that was what I was getting at with the whole Barbie thing.”

Then adding: “Everyone got mad at me, but I’m just telling you what I heard, like, sorry if Netflix has such a giant audience. The point of what I was getting at was that the pipeline is so robust that it’s unbelievable. What a filmmaker wants is the movies to be seen.”

A third film hasn’t yet been greenlit by Netflix but the storyline and recent interviews with the director suggest there could be more on the horizon for Rebel Moon fans.

Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver is available to stream now on Netflix.

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Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department streamed more than 300 million times in one day

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Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department streamed more than 300 million times in one day

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department has become the first album in Spotify history to reach more than 300 million streams in a single day.

The 34-year-old singer also became the most-streamed artist in a single day on the platform when her record was released on 19 April, according to the streaming service.

Spotify wrote on X: “History made! On April 19, 2024, Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department was the first album in Spotify history to have over 300M streams in a single day.”

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Swift’s 11th studio album includes collaborations with Florence And The Machine and Post Malone.

Fortnight, featuring Post Malone, is Swift’s first single from the album and also became Spotify’s most streamed song in a single day.

On social media Post Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, said: “It’s once in a lifetime that someone like @taylorswift13 comes into this world.

More on Spotify

“I am floored by your heart and your mind, and I am beyond honoured to have been asked to help you with your journey I love you so much. Thank you Tay.”

On 18 April, Swift announced that Fortnight was the first single on her record and said a music video would drop after the album.

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She also said she had been “a huge fan of Post because of the writer he is, his musical experimentation and those melodies he creates that just stick in your head forever”.

She added: “I got to witness that magic come to life firsthand when we worked together on Fortnight.”

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Fans react to new Taylor Swift album

The music video for the track includes an appearance from Dead Poets Society stars Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles.

Hours after dropping the 16-song edition of her album the US pop superstar announced an expanded version with an extra 15 songs, titled The Anthology.

Swift, who has 11 chart-topping UK albums, had announced the arrival of her latest record live on stage at the Grammy Awards in February.

The performer will bring her Eras Tour to the UK from 7 June, when she kicks off with three shows in Edinburgh with the run of London shows beginning on 21 June.

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The female gamers competing for thousands of pounds at first event of its kind in UK

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The female gamers competing for thousands of pounds at first event of its kind in UK

The UK’s first professional women’s gaming tournament of its kind starts on Saturday.

Four teams of professional gamers will play the first-person shooter game Valorant, which is the most-watched esports game in women’s leagues.

It is the first time Europe’s best teams have battled it out in the UK, and organisers hope it will bring more women into gaming.

Meg ‘Megsoundslikeegg’ Gardner is one of the hosts of the Red Bull Instalock tournament
Image:
Meg ‘Megsoundslikeegg’ Gardner is one of the hosts of the Red Bull Instalock tournament

“The more people see you can enjoy gaming as somebody who’s not native to it, the more confident they’ll get and the more they’ll enjoy it,” said host and streamer Meg ‘Megsoundslikeegg’ Gardner.

The players are competing over two days at London‘s Red Bull Gaming Sphere for a prize pool of £15,000.

Michaela ‘mimi’ Lintrup, who is the one of world’s best Valorant players and has been professionally gaming since she was 18, said: “Back then it was not a big thing like it is today.”

The 26-year-old Dane added: “We fought for a case of Red Bull or something, it was not a prize pool with money. I just played because I had passion for it and I loved it.”

But that’s all changed.

Last year, fans watched more than 28 million hours of professional women’s esports, according to industry tracker Esports Charts. The competitions are usually streamed on places like Twitch, TikTok and YouTube.

Those figures don’t even include people watching in China, where esports are so big that more people watched them than traditional sports at the 2023 Asian Games.

In esports, where people play competitively in a variety of video games, there are leagues, prizes and hordes of fans just like in other sports.

Professional gamer Mathilde ‘Nelo’ Beltoise plays Valorant Karmine Corp
Image:
Professional gamer Mathilde ‘Nelo’ Beltoise plays for French team Karmine Corp

French player Mathilde ‘Nelo’ Beltoise, who is in a team called Karmine Corp, said the level of fandom in France is off the scale.

“Karmine Corp is so huge that everywhere you go, someone will recognise you. Every time I go into the street, I see someone with the jersey. It’s really huge,” she said.

The popularity of her team in France helped Beltoise’s parents, who are teachers, warm to the idea of her playing video games for a living.

“Sometimes one of their students has a Karmine Corp jersey on and they’re like, ‘Is that you?’ Now they just love it,” she explained.

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Being a professional gamer means glamorous-sounding international travel and online streaming, but it is also a regular nine to five job.

“We practice from Monday to Friday but when we get close to tournament time, we will add Sundays,” said Lintrup.

“We have four games a day which usually last for 50 minutes. Then we can talk a little bit about the mistakes we made [for 10 minutes before the next one]. Then we have about one and a half hours of theory time.”

Michaela ‘Mimi’ Lindtrup is one of the world's best Valorant players
Image:
Michaela ‘mimi’ Lindtrup is one of the world’s best Valorant players

Lintrup is the in-game leader of G2 Gozen and her role is fairly similar to that of a football captain.

She said: “After practice, I will usually stream or review which means I will go back and watch our games and point out the mistakes. I have to put in a bit of extra work. I love it like that.”

British competitor Sarah ‘sarah’ Ahmed is 18 years old and from Derby. She has been playing professionally for six months and became interested in gaming because of her brother.

She said: “He had a laptop and I didn’t so when I was 16, I got my first PC, and that’s when I started playing games, just like my brother.”

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Now, she is travelling the world, having recently competed in Turkey in the first-ever mixed-gender tournament. She described the moment she discovered the women’s gaming scene on Valorant.

“When I was younger, none of my friends played video games so whenever I played, it was just by myself, it was hard making girl friends.

“So when I saw there was a big community with a lot of girls just playing, I wanted to be a part of it.”

Sarah 'sarah' Ahmed from Derby has been playing Valorant professionally for six months
Image:
Sarah ‘sarah’ Ahmed from Derby has been playing professionally for six months

Valorant was released during one of the COVID lockdowns, when there was a surge in the number of people playing video games. Host Meg Gardner thinks it is more popular with women because of its storytelling.

She said: “Valorant is very good at being inclusive so you’ll see a lot of female characters that aren’t just in a supportive role, but like people that are very strong in the game. People want to pick them to play with.”

The Red Bull Instalock tournament is being streamed live on Twitch from 12pm UK time on Saturday and Sunday.

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