Eco Warriors

Volkswagen giving The Conservation Fund $1.25 million to buy, protect land in East Tennessee

Volkswagen is making a significant donation to help the environment of Eastern Tennessee.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Conservation Fund will be on the receiving end of a $1.25 million donation from Volkswagen. The monies will be used to buy, protect and donate hundreds of acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service. Any remaining money will be used to provide community grants in Eastern Tennessee.

Volkswagen's U.S. plant is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, near where these funds will be used.

Cherokee National Forest Tennessee The additional conservation efforts will allow visitors to enjoy the national habitats of wildlife in Tennessee.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"We are excited about our partnership with Volkswagen and the opportunity to advance their commitment to corporate leadership around sustainability," said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. "Volkswagen is taking real, measurable steps forward to help protect the environment, embrace sustainable business practices and support the communities in which they work."

Most of the funds will be used to increase the size of the Cherokee National Forest. The Forest was created in 1920 and currently stands at about 656,000 acres north and south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Volkswagen's donation will help add 1,500 acres to the site. That new acreage will be used for public recreation and habitat protection for black bears and Indiana bats.

Cherokee National Forest sign Tennessee Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund are teaming up to increase the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"Our work with The Conservation Fund will help strengthen the environment and help us give back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "This collaboration in our own backyard underscores our 'Drive Bigger' goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves and then taking action. We feel a responsibility to show how a major automaker can credibly contribute to the greater good."

In addition to the bears and bats, the Forest is home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, several whitewater rivers, and 12 designated wildernesses.

The Conservation Fund is negotiating with private landowners to acquire properties that will be held until they can be transferred to the USDA Forest Service for long-term stewardship in 2020 and 2021.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Bruce Pascal is one of the most devoted Hot Wheels collectors on the planet.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The first Hot Wheels arrived in stores in 1968 and it wasn't long until they became the number one toy. Bruce Pascal was seven years old at the time and remembers the toy immediately becoming popular with his circle of friends.

"It's hard to explain the craze today, but Hot Wheels was huge. All of my friends were saving up to buy all the Hot Wheels they could," Pascal said.

While he was growing up, Pascal, like kids across the country, kept his Hot Wheels in a cigar box. As he grew up, the cigar box gathered more dust, sitting on a shelf for 30 years until Pascal rediscovered the collection in 1999.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels The pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb is the most sought-after Hot Wheels car in the world. Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

"That excited feeling I had as a boy was rekindled instantly," said Pascal. "My friend offered to pay me $200 for the cigar box. I declined and held onto them, but it was his offer that made me start researching the value of Hot Wheels and pursuing collecting as an adult."

His search became a bit obsessive. Pascal began calling other collectors, taking out newspaper ads, and even used a 1969 telephone book of Mattel employees to see if any former workers had rare toys they would be willing to part with for a price. He collected everything he could, including Hot Wheels memorabilia like blueprints, original drawings, sales brochures, and wood models.

His collection grew from that cigar box to thousands of Hot Wheels. Yet Pascal was not satisfied. He still had not found the one Hot Wheels vehicle that was alluding him, the most valuable Volkswagen ever produced - the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb prototype.

The model was a bit of a folly. When VW and Hot Wheels initially created it, the car's narrow body and surf boards out the back window made the vehicle unable to stay upright when rolled. So, it was redesigned and the sides became more weighted and the surfboards were moved to the sides of the vehicle. This was the model that made it into production. The Beach Bomb was sold with a sticker sheet of flowers to decorate the vehicle, an offering that was very of its time.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels There are only two of the pink models in existence.Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The original prototypes with the surfboards out the back window are extremely rare, as only Hot Wheels employees had access to them. Of these prototypes, the pink ones are the rarest of all. There are only two known to be in existence.

"I already had heard about [the Beach Bomb] in purple, green, red, light blue and gold. I even had heard about an unpainted model," said Pascal. "But pink was extremely hard to find. Most Hot Wheels models were marketed to young boys, who the brand assumed didn't want to play with pink. They created just a few pink [Beach Bomb] models to market to their female audience."

Eventually, Pascal networked his way into purchasing both pink Beach Bombs models. He has since sold one of them to another friend and collector, but the one that is in the best condition has stayed with him.

Today, Pascal owns over 4,000 Hot Wheels models and about 3,000 pieces of memorabilia, but the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb remains his most prized possession.

"I won't say how much I purchased it for," said Pascal, "but it is worth an estimated $150,000 today."

To help prevent sun damage, the Beach Bomb remains in a dark, Plexiglass case. Pascal displays the model in his personal museum in Maryland, where he gives private tours to other Hot Wheels enthusiasts. He has also loaned the model out to other automotive museums and events for display.

"I want other people to experience the Beach Bomb. I've found so much joy in learning about classic cars and Hot Wheels, and I hope I can spark some of that in other people. It's a treasure to find these rare models," Pascal said.

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Volkswagen's mobile charging robot is designed to work autonomously.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is one of the biggest pain points for potential EV buyers. It's not just the time it takes to fuel up the car, it's where the filling station is located. Volkswagen has come up with a concept that removes some of those obstacles.

The mobile charging robot is an invention that comes out of the Volkswagen Group Components division. It is tasked with "fully autonomous charging of vehicles in restricted parking areas", which includes parking garages.

Volkswagen mobile charging robot The robot is designed to charge multiple vehicles in a row before itself needing a recharge.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is, and remains, a key factor in the success of electric mobility. Our charging robot is just one of several approaches, but is undoubtedly one of the most visionary," explains Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.

The concept isn't just a far-out vision of the future. Volkswagen hopes to implement it, alongside other charging concepts in the near future - "over the next few years".

Here's how it works. The autonomous charging robot is started via an app of Car-to-X communication. Everything from the charging socket flap to connecting the plug and decoupling it are done without human intervention. It's nearly as sophisticated an operation as the Space X Dragon capsule docking the International Space Station. Check out the video below to see it in action.

Volkswagens Mobile Charging Robot – vision becomes reality www.youtube.com

Ideally, the robot would be able to charge several vehicles in a row before moving back to a central charging station.

"Setting up an efficient charging infrastructure for the future is a central task that challenges the entire sector," says Schmall. "We are developing solutions to help avoid costly stand-alone measures. The mobile charging robot and our flexible quick-charging station are just two of these solutions."

Volkswagen's flexible quick-charging station will be launched onto the market in early 2021. The robot has been prototyped and is now undergoing further development. Before the robot can go to market, vehicles must be able to deliver and receive Car-to-X communication.

Volkswagen isn't stopping there. "Our developments do not just focus on customers' needs and the technical prerequisites of electric vehicles, says Schmall. "They also consider the economic possibilities they offer potential partners." They enable the operators of parking structures to quickly and simply "electrify" every parking space by utilizing the mobile charging robot. This reduces any construction work needed, at the same time reducing the potential cost.

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