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In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we regularly present women who have a very special impact on Luxembourg society, either through their professional careers or simply through their personal stories.
The Kirchberg district of the capital is often a nightmare for drivers. But with the right car, the traffic chaos can be easily avoided. That's exactly what Nicole Winandy-Biltgen will experience today when she test drives the brand-new Audi Q4 e-tron all-electric compact SUV. Her day begins at the Elysis nursing home, where she gives the residents a little treat. Nicole is a hospital clown for Île aux Clowns, an organization dedicated to bringing joy and comfort to people in difficult situations. The nine trained clowns regularly visit retirement and nursing homes as well as palliative and children's wards in hospitals to sweeten the day of residents and patients a little with their cheerful costumes, music, dances and tricks or simply to keep them company. Their job is not an easy one, but one that fulfils them completely.
After a three-hour shift, Nicole is done and quite exhausted. With a little glitter left on her face, Nicole climbs into the Audi Q4 e-tron and just drives off. Between the mighty, gleaming skyscrapers of Kirchberg, the contemporary Audi blends in perfectly with its surroundings. Its spacey design, however, stands out from the many other very popular SUVs on the road today, because the eyes of passers-by simply stay glued to it. Its imposing front end and powerful, if not muscular, shape paired with simple, elegant lines give the Q4 e-tron the typical Audi look, which is not only a feast for the eyes, but also functional and aerodynamic. A light strip connects the two taillights and thus gives the rear a particularly futuristic touch.
Two things are very important to 59-year-old Nicole when it comes to a car: On the one hand, it should drive her comfortably from one place to another. And the Audi Q4 e-tron certainly does that. At 4.59 meters long and 1.90 meters wide, Nicole initially had a lot of respect for the imposing size of the compact SUV, but it actually drives very pleasantly and is almost as maneuverable as a compact car. An absolute plus for Nicole. The former city dweller moved to the north of the country a while ago, and she’s quite happy with her choice because the city eventually became too big and too noisy for her. She doesn't mind the daily commute either because she really likes driving.
On the other hand, she needs a lot of space for her working material and especially for her costumes and her huge selection of instruments. She can play guitar, ukulele, saxophone, accordion and flute. And these instruments take up a lot of space. So it's a good thing that the Q4 e-tron offers an outstanding 520 to 1,490 liters and the Sportsback between 535 and 1,460 liters of trunk space. However, the volume in the luggage compartment isn’t the only impressive thing with these two models. The interior of the compact SUV also offers all passengers an unprecedented sense of space and an enormous amount of room and legroom.
Nicole is a trained nurse. When she became a mother, she decided to quit her job and devote herself entirely to raising her three children. In 2011, when the offspring was out of the house, she felt like getting back into the working world. As she had always been very musical and active in the Conservatoire and had been the director and conductor of a choir, among other things, she wanted to try to combine her two passions, music and nursing, as best she could. By chance, she saw a job ad in the newspaper for Île aux Clowns – at that time still called OPE –, applied and was hired right away. "And that was a very good decision!" she grins.
"As a hospital clown, you have to be able to improvise and respond to each person individually to see how they react", Nicole explains. When you walk into a room, you have to look around and notice the mood as well as the environment to be able to empathize with the situation at hand. Some people are more passive, others are very open and welcoming and immediately sing or dance along. "When singing, people open up completely. That's impressive!", Nicole is pleased to say. In general, people, old and young, react very positively to the clowns. "Nevertheless, people have the right to say no if they don't want to see us", she explains. This is particularly important in the palliative care ward, she says.
Older people have often lost their short-term memory, but they still remember things from the past very well. For this reason, the clowns' broad repertoire of songs consists of many older songs that the seniors still sing along to with enthusiasm. Children and teenagers usually have a different taste in music. But the clowns can also sing along to Justin Bieber if they have to.
During her drive, the radio also plays rather contemporary music, but that in itself suits this modern and, to top it off, 100 percent emission-free car very well. The electric SUV comes with two different battery sizes (52 or 77 kWh) and three different engines, depending on the model. The Q4 35 e-tron and the Q4 40 e-tron have power outputs of 170 and 204 hp each, and the four-wheel drive Q4 50 e-tron quattro even puts a maximum 299 hp on the road. One argument for why the Q4 e-tron is an ideal everyday car is its range of up to 520 kilometers on just one battery charge. Under ideal circumstances, the Audi even allows you to charge the battery in just 10 minutes to the point where you can then travel 130 kilometers.
"One argument for why the Q4 e-tron is an ideal everyday car is its range of up to 520 kilometers on just one battery charge."
After an extensive excursion through the busy streets of Kirchberg, Nicole has had enough of the urban jungle and retreats to a more secluded area of the neighborhood, where green spaces and apartment buildings dominate the landscape. There, she takes a well-deserved break at Brasserie du Kirchberg to recharge her own batteries. Thanks to the myAudi app, she can stay in touch with the vehicle at all times and can, for example, activate and regulate the charging function and the air conditioning remotely and easily via smartphone.
During the pandemic, the hospital clowns could no longer personally visit the people in the care facilities. An alternative was quickly sought, found and implemented. Over the summer, musical spectacles of around 40 minutes were performed in the outdoor area of the care facilities – of course in strict compliance with the applicable safety and hygiene measures. About 30 performances triggered great enthusiasm among their audience and helped to make this difficult time a little more bearable.
During her visits to the care facilities, Nicole naturally has a lot of touching experiences and has many beautiful, but also sad stories to tell. One stands out. In the palliative care unit, Nicole stood in front of the room of an elderly couple with a colleague. The lady was seriously ill and in a coma. Her husband was sitting in a chair on the other side of the room and beckoned the two clowns into the room. He asked them to sing the old Luxembourg songs he liked so much. At some point they sang the song "Gëff mer eng Bees" by Dicks. Perky but happy, the clowns gave each other one friendly peck after another on the cheek to lift their spirits. Soon the man got up out of his chair, walked over to his wife's bed, leaned down and gave her a heartfelt kiss. For Nicole, this moment was the most beautiful of her entire career, as she was able to inspire such a loving gesture from a person in such a painful situation through her work. She still gets goosebumps today when she thinks back on it.
Nevertheless, the clowns also have to take care of themselves. You can't always just give and give… sometimes you have to take a breath. Because their work can have an impact on their mental health that should not be underestimated. Once a month, the clowns can talk to a psychologist about their feelings and experiences. Nicole has had to learn to protect herself. "I've built up quite a good wall for myself so that I don't take people's suffering home with me", Nicole explains.
Helping and providing support to needy or sick children was a cause that was always dear to André Losch and his wife Henriette. The collaboration between the association Ile aux clowns and André Losch began back in 2014 when the "Fondation André et Henriette Losch" (sister foundation of André Losch Fondation) donated a vehicle – the “Clowncaddy” – to the association. The “Clowncaddy” has since been used by the clowns for their numerous hospital visits. Today, it’s André Losch Fondation that has taken over the task of supporting the association and finances all its visits to the Kannerklinik.
Even though today is not the first time she has driven an electric vehicle, she enjoys the calm and pleasant driving experience of this likeable and confident everyday car, which is available in two variants: the Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron. They are the first two all-electric compact SUVs from the Audi brand. With its handy head-up display, which Nicole quickly discovered is only visible to the driver, the Audi combines the virtual and real worlds in a whole new way thanks to its augmented reality system. Nicole quickly got used to the fact that the navigation icons in a virtual image seem to float on the road ten meters in front of her, showing her the way without her having to direct her gaze to the two screens in the dashboard. There are transparent touch surfaces on the brand-new steering wheel that are there to operate all the car's digital instruments, such as the new Sonos audio system, without having to reach far to do so. There is also the option of operating all systems by voice control.
Nicole could retire next year and spend more time with her grandchild. But because she enjoys her work so much, she decided to add another year. "My whole life has changed because of my work", she says. People's stories and wisdom enrich her daily life so much that she can hardly imagine stopping. As she drives through the gates of the front yard of Losch Luxembourg in Howald, she knows she'll have to leave the Q4 e-tron right there. Nevertheless, she is grateful to have had this experience today and is open to whatever the future holds.