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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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The Pogues star Shane MacGowan, best known for Christmas hit Fairytale Of New York, dies at 65




The Pogues star Shane MacGowan, best known for Christmas hit Fairytale Of New York, dies at 65

Musician and singer Shane MacGowan, best known as the frontman of The Pogues, has died at the age of 65.

His wife Victoria Mary Clarke said in a post on Instagram: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life.”

The Irish star had suffered from several health issues in recent years.

Born in Kent on Christmas Day in 1957, MacGowan will forever be associated with the festive period thanks to The Pogues’ 1987 hit, Fairytale Of New York, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.

Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, the band also had hits including Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, A Pair Of Brown Eyes and A Rainy Night In Soho.

MacGowan was a punk rebel, almost as famous for his drinking and drug taking – and for the toll it took on his teeth – as he was for his music. But he was a gifted storyteller from a young age, winning a Daily Mirror literary prize when he was 13, and a scholarship to Westminster School for his essays.

“I didn’t last there very long,” he told the Guardian in a 2013 interview. “I got nicked for smoking a joint and was kicked out.”

The Pogues in 1985: Shane MacGowan, Andrew Ranken, Jem Finer, Terry Woods, James Fearley, Philip Chevron, Spider Stacy and Cait O'Riordan. Pic: Everett/Shutterstock
The Pogues in 1985: Shane MacGowan, Andrew Ranken, Jem Finer, Terry Woods, James Fearley, Philip Chevron, Spider Stacy and Cait O’Riordan. Pic: Everett/Shutterstock

He had been unwell in recent years, receiving treatment in hospital for encephalitis in December 2022, and spending time in intensive care in the summer. He was back in hospital in November, with former bandmates Spider Stacy and Terry Woods among those who visisted him.

MacGowan had also used a wheelchair since 2015 following several falls, breaking his pelvis and then his right knee.

The singer married his long-term partner, journalist Victoria Mary Clarke, at a ceremony in Copenhagen in 2018, with his friend Johnny Depp playing guitar at their wedding.

Depp performed bass guitar for the Pogues during their performance on 'Top of the Pops'.
MacGowan (right) and Johnny Depp pictured in 1994

Writing for the Irish Independent ahead of their nuptials, about the first time she met MacGowan at the age of 16, Clarke said she was “awe-struck”, before going on to detail a complicated relationship that “makes the Fairytale Of New York couple from Shane’s Christmas song seem tame and orderly”.

She said: “When you meet ‘The One’, you have a choice. You can dive in, marry them while you are infatuated with each other and hope for the best. Or you can wait until you are sure that the honeymoon phase has worn off and you are seeing each other in the light of having lived, no longer young, beautiful and indestructible.”

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Brookside actor Dean Sullivan, who played Jimmy Corkhill, dies aged 68




Brookside actor Dean Sullivan, who played Jimmy Corkhill, dies aged 68

Actor and director Dean Sullivan has died at the age of 68.

Sullivan was the longest-serving member of the Channel 4 soap Brookside, playing Jimmy Corkhill between 1986 and 2003.

He died peacefully following a short illness on Wednesday, his agent said.

Stars of the Channel Four soap 'Brookside' arrive at the British Academy Television Awards (BAFTAs) at Grosvenor House in London. From left: Michael Starke, Dean Sullivan, Claire Sweeney and Sue Jenkins
Sullivan (second left) pictured with Brookside co-stars Michael Starke, Claire Sweeney and Sue Jenkins at the BAFTA TV awards in 1999

“To millions he was and very much still is remembered as ‘Jimmy’, to family and friends he was ‘Dino’. Dean’s family wants to thank Arrowe Park Hospital for their unwavering and consistent support. We ask that you respect their privacy in their time of grief,” a statement from Hamilton Management and his family said.

Brookside ran from 1982 to 2003 and followed the lives of the residents of Brookside Close in Liverpool. Stars included Anna Friel, who played Beth Jordache; Claire Sweeney, who played Jimmy’s daughter Lindsey; and The Royle Family’s Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, who played Bobby and Sheila Grant.

Sullivan, from Liverpool, was a graduate of Lancaster University and a primary school teacher before becoming a professional actor. He joined Brookside in 1986 and quickly made Jimmy one of the soap’s best-known characters.

He was involved in many of the show’s most memorable moments – including the discovery of the body of villain Trevor Jordache under a patio with his dog Cracker, two years after Jordache’s murder and cover-up by his wife Mandy and daughter Beth.

Coronation street actor William Roache (right) with Brookside's Dean Sullivan with their 'Soap Oscars' in 2001
Pictured with Coronation street actor William Roache (aka Ken Barlow) with their ‘Soap Oscars’ in 2001

Sullivan played Jimmy until the soap was axed in 2003, winning two British Soap Awards during his time on the show – including a special recognition award. He filmed more episodes than any other actor and went on to narrate a Brookside DVD boxset.

His other TV drama roles included parts in BBC’s Doctors, ITV’s The Royal and ITV’s Crime Stories. In 2022, he appeared in the Netflix short film Wings opposite Emmerdale actor Tom Lister.

Actress Sue Johnston, who stars in BBC tv's The Royle Family, accompanied by actor Dean Sullivan, who plays Jimmy Corkhill in Brookside, arriving at the British Comedy Awards 2000 presentation, in London.
Sullivan pictured with fellow Brookside star Sue Johnston at the British Comedy Awards in 2000

The actor also performed on stage, playing Scullery in the North West premiere of Jim Cartwright’s Road in Bolton, and starring in a one-man monologue tour of Chip In The Sugar by Alan Bennett. He also appeared in the world premiere of Stand Up! the Musical with the late Lionel Blair.

In pantomime, he played characters such as Smee in Peter Pan, Abanazar in Aladdin, the Dame in Cinderella, Starkey in Peter Pan, and King Rat in Dick Whittington, in venues around the UK.

Sullivan also had experience in theatre directing and writing, after running his own theatre production company and directing several shows for the National Trust and other clients, his agent Alan Hamilton said.

“Dean gave an immense immeasurable amount of his time over the years to support many global, national and regional charities, too many to mention individually,” he said. “He delivered speeches, took part in charity events and fronted important campaigns live, on TV, radio and in the press.

“The support he has given has helped raise many hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years for various causes and significantly increase awareness of important charitable campaign messages.”

Sullivan was one of seven brothers and sisters “and came from humble, working class Merseyside roots”, Hamilton added.

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Jamie Lynn Spears leaves I’m A Celebrity on medical grounds




Jamie Lynn Spears leaves I'm A Celebrity on medical grounds

Jamie Lynn Spears has become the second contestant to leave I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! on medical grounds.

A spokesperson for the ITV show confirmed to Sky News that Britney Spears‘ sister had left the jungle on Wednesday afternoon.

She follows Grace Dent, whose departure was confirmed on Saturday. She told her fellow campmates that her “heart is broken” after leaving the programme early.

'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!' TV show, Series 23, Campmates, Australia - Nov 2023
Grace Dent

Nov 2023
Grace Dent was the first contestant to leave the show this year. Pic: ITV/Shutterstock

“Jamie Lynn Spears has left I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! on medical grounds,” the spokesperson said.

“She’s been a fantastic campmate who has triumphed at trials and bonded well with her fellow celebrities.”

Sky News understands the 32-year-old has now left the camp and her fellow campmates are aware that she won’t be returning.

Her last appearance on the show will be on Wednesday night’s episode.

Spears had threatened to quit last week after just a few days when she became emotional because she was missing her children.

During the episode on 21 November, she told her campmates she was finding it difficult to be so far away from her family.

Jamie Lynn Spears on I'm A Celebrity Pic: ITV/Shutterstock
Spears had spoken about missing her children while on the show. Pic: ITV/Shutterstock

Her emotions bubbled up further when four celebrities were tasked with a challenge to win the contestants’ luxury items, with hers being a photo of her two daughters.

Spears also appeared to use the camp phone – which normally only rings during challenges – in last night’s episode to try to call her family in the US.

During her time on the show, Spears also discussed her relationship with her sister Britney, who she said she had talked to before entering the jungle.

Spears revealed the pair had a “very complicated upbringing” which lead to them having issues with each other.

U.S. singer Britney Spears (R) and her sister Jamie Lynn Spears watch the NBA game between the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles December 17, 2006. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Jamie Lynn Spears and Britney Spears in 2006

However, she added that she felt Britney would be “worried” about her in the jungle and believed she would be “checking in” regularly.

“She’s (Britney) a good big sister, she is,” Spears said. Yeah, I love her… Me and her throw down. The world’s seen that.

“I’ve learned to stop talking about it publicly, but you know what, families fight. Listen, we just do it better than most.”

Spears also discussed the challenges she faced after falling pregnant as a teenager while starring on TV series Zoey 101, and how she became Catholic after her daughter survived a freak accident where she nearly drowned in a family pond.

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Other celebrities on this year’s show include former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, First Dates star Fred Sirieix and JLS singer Marvin Humes.

The show has so far attracted a lower audience than last year’s series, which featured former health secretary Matt Hancock.

This year’s launch was watched by seven million people in its first week – down from a consolidated audience of nearly 12 million last year.

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