Engines of society - SEAT Leon e-hybrid

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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.

"My life is always a circus; both during and after work", Laura Piron describes it very accurately. The 32-year-old is not only a social worker at the non-profit organisation Inter-Actions, but also teaches acrobatics at the Limpertsberg circus school Zaltimbanq. Today, as almost every day of the week, she is on her way there to do some training. With only one difference: today she is heading for Limpertsberg in a brand-new SEAT Leon e-hybrid. With 2.3 million models sold since its introduction in 1999, the Leon has always been a cornerstone of the SEAT brand. As the Spanish brand's first plug-in hybrid model with CO2 emissions of just 25 to 30 grams per kilometre, the fourth generation of the compact all-rounder now signals a step towards an electric and sustainable future.

The first thing Laura notices positively is the enormous acceleration power of the compact car. This is hardly surprising, because with its 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, which together deliver up to 204 hp (150 kW) to the road, the Leon combines unbridled power and unique dynamics with outstanding efficiency.

The Leon is available in two body types, both of which attract attention with their elegant but sporty design: As a simple 5-door and as a slightly longer Sportstourer.

Both models offer an astonishing amount of space, for passengers as well as in the boot. From the inside, the Leon's minimalist, open design makes it look bigger than it actually is. From the outside, it is the perfect everyday and city car. With its length of 4.37 or 4.64 metres and a width of just under 1.8 metres, you are guaranteed to get through anywhere.

Up high

But how did Laura actually come to work in the circus? She has always been a sports enthusiast and has tried out all kinds of sports. Nevertheless, she never found the one that really suited her. She never lasted long in badminton, fencing, gymnastics, golf, etc., because competitive sports are simply not for her.

So at the age of 27 she came to the circus school to try out partner and floor acrobatics, which she really enjoyed. A year later she tried the trapeze and the Chinese Pole, a vertical pole that you can climb up and do the most impressive poses, if you have the strength for it.

Because aerial acrobatics is one thing above all: power-intensive. And this enormous muscle strength, which she still lacked at the beginning, Laura acquired in just one year and had therefore reached a really good level in a short time. So good, in fact, that she decided to pass on her rather extreme and risky passion and teach acrobatics classes herself. She taught herself a lot, but numerous workshops and trainings abroad – e.g. at circuses in Cologne or Brussels – also prepared her for this task, which she takes on every day with heart and soul. Every Wednesday, interested people can drop by at the open training and try out all the different disciplines in the circus.

Laura also does calisthenics in her spare time. This is a special form of muscle training that is practised outdoors. In Luxembourg, there are outdoor parks in the capital city of Petruss as well as in Remich, which are tailored to this unusual sport, among other things. "I am actually open to everything. I try everything and always have fun with everything I do. Both privately and at work", Laura explains. Downhill mountain biking is also one of her hobbies, as another extreme, even though she mostly stays on the ground when doing so.

Today, Laura leads acrobatics classes for almost 20 hours a week – and that's only after she's done with her actual work. Because during the day Laura is a social worker. Since she has the day off, she wants to visit the city's Christmas market and warm up with a hot punch in this wintry grey weather. So off to the city centre.

The unusual, barely audible noise of the electric drive still takes a little getting used to for Laura, as this is her first experience with an electric or hybrid car. With the Leon, you can decide for yourself whether you want to drive purely electrically, only with the petrol engine or a combination of both, and thus adapt the drive to the driving situation. However, at speeds above 140 kilometres per hour, the Leon automatically switches to hybrid mode to save battery power for situations where more ecological driving is appropriate, such as urban driving.

With a wallbox, the Leon can be fully charged in just 3 hours and 40 minutes. With a 2.3kW charger, it takes just under 6 hours. With a full charge, depending on the equipment, you can drive up to 64 kilometres purely electrically and with both drives together you can even go up to 800 kilometres.

Close to the people

Often, when Laura is out and about in the city, homeless people come up to her, greet and hug her, and sometimes even give her a flower. The reason for this is Laura's involvement with the Wanteraktioun a few years ago. This is where her career with the social organisation Inter-Actions began. For 6 months, she organised and coordinated the Wanteraktioun, which provides shelter and care for homeless people during the colder months of the year. A lot of people still have a lot of prejudice against homeless people, and Laura thinks that's a shame. "These people are not as aggressive or as evil as people always think", the young social worker knows.

When the winter was over, she was offered a new project by Inter-Actions called "Coup de Pouce", which works in the field of social housing. Laura was able to help build this project from the ground up, so that today she manages 20 social housing units and supports many people who have come to Luxembourg from all corners of the world and who, for various reasons, find themselves in a difficult living situation. Many of them simply need a little "coup de pouce" to be able to stand firmly in life again. Over two years, these people are accompanied, advised, informed and motivated by Laura. They get help and support in finding a job, possible training and all the administrative hurdles that arise in this process. Laura always has an open ear and is grateful that she always gets to meet interesting people and cultures. Nevertheless, she regrets the rather unusual situation on the Luxembourg housing market. "It's a shame that often quite 'normal' people can no longer afford a flat in Luxembourg", she explains.

"With a full charge, depending on the equipment, you can drive up to 64 kilometres purely electrically and with both drives together you can even go up to 800 kilometres."

Despite the hot punch, it has become a bit too cold for Laura and she makes her way back to the car. In this rather unpleasant weather, the SEAT Leon knows how to impress with very special features, because in addition to its heated seats, you can also warm your frozen fingers on the steering wheel.

A blessing for Laura. She is also pleased that the LED lighting integrated in the exterior mirrors projects the Spanish word "¡Hola!", which means "hello", onto the floor next to the car as a greeting every time it is opened.

Because the weather today is not conducive to being outside, Laura now takes a short drive through the suburbs of the capital to get to know the SEAT Leon a little better. One thing is clear: the Leon stands out because of its shape, which combines corners and edges with flowing curves that are not only nice to look at and give the car its unique character, but also guarantee improved aerodynamics.

Although the interior of the Leon has a very minimalist design, an Ambient Light, i.e. a colourful glowing arc of light that stretches across the entire dashboard and into the door trim, that brings colour into the driver's cabin. The system adjusts the intensity and colour of the light as required. However, the Leon impresses not only with its contemporary design, but also with its advanced driving assistance systems. These react better than ever to obstacles or abrupt manoeuvres by other drivers, for example, creating a whole new sense of safety.

Social work has always been an important part of Laura's life, as she actually studied gerontology. She discovered her passion for working with the elderly at the age of only 14, when she worked at CIPA in Mamer as part of a social internship at the Waldorf School. From that moment on, she also helped out there during the holidays, and also gained experience at Hëllef Doheem and in different Foyers de Jour.

She graduated from high school in Belgium in the field of "Sciences Sociales". From there, Laura went to Bremen, where she completed her Bachelor's degree in Gerontology. Back in Luxembourg, she started working with people suffering from dementia at the ALA – Association Luxembourg Alzheimer. At the same time, she completed her Master's degree in Gerontology at the University of Luxembourg, where she was offered a position as Lead Memory Coach in the project PDP – Programme Dementia Prevention of Santé in collaboration with the University of Luxembourg and the University Hospital of Homburg. Here she did tests with people in the early stages of dementia to find out what ways there are to prevent dementia or delay the onset of symptoms. Healthy sleep, adequate cognitive training, a balanced diet and plenty of physical activity can definitely make a difference.

She then headed the Senior Academy at the RBS – Zenter fir Altersfroen (now called GERO), where she continued her research in the field of cognitive training in ageing, before finally moving to Inter-Actions. What she likes so much about working with seniors is that most elderly people are simply content with what they have. "They have this certain calmness and life experience. They give you so much back. It's insane", Laura says.

Despite her varied daily routine, however, nothing gives her as much energy as the circus. Although the work in a social setting enriches her mentally and emotionally, it is also particularly energy- and strength-draining. Therefore, the circus represents a very special retreat for Laura. "When you arrive at the circus, the atmosphere is suddenly completely different", she describes it. She feels free here and that's what she likes about it.

Back at Losch Luxembourg in Howald, Laura has to part with the SEAT Leon again. Nevertheless, she is grateful for this first experience with an advanced hybrid car and expresses her gratitude.