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Swiss-Led Team Drives Electric Vans From Geneva to Doha, Qatar

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A Swiss-led team has driven electric vans across Europe and the Arabian Peninsula to Qatar to showcase zero-emission battery powered vehicles, organizers said Sunday.

The five-strong Swiss and German team set out from Geneva on August 28 in two electric Volkswagen vans on a 6,500 kilometer (4,000 mile) journey that ended in Doha on Saturday.

“The motivation was really to do something unusual,” the group’s leader Frank Rinderknecht told AFP. “Certainly we did have the risk of not arriving — technical issues, health issues or an accident.”

The journey aimed to raise awareness about the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, he said. “If our trip put just a little bit of rethinking, of initiative, into people’s minds then I am not unhappy.”

The journey started with a crossing of the Swiss Alps and included what organizers believe was the first west-to-east crossing of Saudi Arabia with electric vehicles.

The team’s ID. Buzz VW vans — modelled on the German manufacturer’s Combi campervan — travelled across 12 countries, reaching Aqaba in Jordan from Turkey by ship.

However, the trip highlighted shortcomings of the charging infrastructure, Rinderknecht said, comparing the mismatch of technologies to the “early days of telecommunication.”

In Europe, the team had to use numerous apps to pay for charging points across different regions. In Jordan, they had to adapt their European systems to the Chinese hardware they found.

The journey to Doha was completed in partnership with the Geneva International Motor Show, which is being held outside the Swiss city for the first time since its inception in 1905.

The 10-day motor show to be held in Qatar from October 5 will feature 31 automotive brands and overlap with the October 8 Qatar Grand Prix at the Lusail International Circuit on Doha’s northern outskirts.

Saad Ali Al Kharji, deputy chairman of Qatar Tourism, said holding events like the motor show was part the gas-rich Gulf state’s “strategic vision of becoming the fastest-growing destination in the Middle East by 2030.”

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