Volkswagen & Greece transform island into e-mobility showcase
The VW group and the Greek government have agreed to establish a “pioneering mobility system” on the Mediterranean island of Astypalea. To this end, the island’s current transport system is to be converted to electric vehicles and regenerative energies.
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In the long term, Astypalea should thus become a model island for climate-neutral mobility. The corresponding declaration of intent was signed today.
At the centre of the project is a transport system with intelligent mobility services, such as an electric ride-sharing service that operates all year round and is intended to make “today’s still very limited bus traffic” more attractive. Together with local partners, part of the conventional vehicle rental service will also be converted into a car-sharing service that will offer electric cars and Seat’s e-scooters and e-bikes.
These projects alone should significantly reduce the vehicle fleet on the island. Around 1,500 vehicles with combustion engines are to be replaced by around 1,000 electric vehicles. Commercial vehicles active in the local economy and official vehicles, such as police, ambulances and the fleet of public sector vehicles, are also to be electrified. Volkswagen also plans to install Elli’s wall box chargers throughout the island “to ensure a comprehensive charging infrastructure”.
Therefore, the project serves as a “blueprint for Volkswagen’s decarbonisation strategy” and is “strongly supported by the Group’s independent sustainability advisory board”. Margo T. Oge, member of the Sustainability Advisory Board and former Director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality at the US Environmental Protection Agency: “Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity. In conjunction with renewable energy, E-mobility will help reduce the worst impacts of climate change. As Aristotle said: ‘It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.’ The Astypalea project is a light in the darkness and will help demonstrate the future of clean mobility.”
Astypalea is an island in the southern Aegean Sea with an area of about 100 square kilometres, roughly comparable to the island of Sylt. It has about 1,300 inhabitants and is visited by about 72,000 tourists annually. Astypalea currently has a minimal public transportation system, with two buses serving only a tiny part of the island. The energy demand is almost entirely covered by fossil energy sources. The island should take a pioneering role in sustainable tourism in the future. One of the main pillars is the change to sustainable mobility. The Republic of Greece supports this change in its National Energy and Climate Plan framework.
Update 03 June 2021
After the Volkswagen Group and the Greek government agreed to transform the Mediterranean island of Astypalea into a model island for climate-neutral mobility, things are now getting concrete: the first electric vehicles were put into operation, which is used by the police as well as at the airport and by the island administration. At the same time, the first private and public charging points went online.
Sales to private customers will start at the end of June. The VW electric models e-Up, ID.3 and ID.4, and the Seat Mó eScooter 125 will then be available. The Greek government is also supporting the switch to e-mobility with purchase premiums.
Scientists from the University of the Aegean (Greece) and the University of Strathclyde (Scotland) will accompany and systematically evaluate the transformation on Astypalea. The study will focus on the people of Astypalea and their attitudes towards the change. A series of surveys will investigate the general views on e-mobility and the willingness to switch to an e-vehicle. This will provide a deeper understanding of the key drivers and barriers to transformation. The study results will then also be made available to the general public and could thus help other regions accelerate the transition to e-mobility.
Over the next five years, Astypalea will be transformed into a smart, sustainable island. Mobility will be electric, powered by locally produced green electricity. New mobility services such as car-sharing and ridesharing will replace the current “rudimentary” bus line. All in all, mobility will be improved, but the number of vehicles on the island will also be reduced by about a third.
Update 21 April 2022
The electrification of Astypalea continues as Volkswagen delivers the first electric cars to private customers on the Greek island. VW handed over an ID.3, and further deliveries included the ID.4 and e-up! and the Seat MÓ eScooter 125. As a result, the EV fleet on Astypalea is further growing after the local authorities have been using electric vehicles already since last year.
Thanos Papagiannis, the first ID.3 customer, said: “E-mobility is a perfect match for Astypalea. The distances here are short, the power consumption is low, and the charging network is now very well developed. I really hope that Astypalea will inspire other regions to increase their efforts for climate protection by adopting e-mobility solutions.” The ID.3 replaces a Golf 3.
Maik Stephan, Head of Business Development of Volkswagen Group and Project Manager, added: “The island is experiencing the same change as any other region in Europe, only in a much shorter time. With the first private customers driving electric now, word will quickly get around how fascinating e-mobility is.”
The ‘Smart & Sustainable Island’ project is a joint initiative of the Volkswagen Group and Greece designed to include 360-degree change. Recently, the Volkswagen importer for Greece Kosmocar and the Municipality launched a recycling initiative to free the island from scrap vehicles. Broken motorcycles, cars and trucks are left behind in many places, but are now to be collected by volunteers, then brought by ship to Athens and finally professionally recycled there.
For Volkswagen, the next milestone is set for summer, when the Group will launch ride-sharing and EV sharing services with local companies to reduce the number of vehicles on Astypalea.
Update 6 June 2022:
The cooperation between the Volkswagen Group and the government of Greece to transform Astypalea into a model island for climate-neutral mobility enters its next phase with the launch of two mobility services. The ridesharing service Astybus, which has now gone into operation, and the vehicle-sharing service Astygo operate exclusively with fully electric vehicles. At Astybus, five ID. Buzz will be in use once it has its market launch in autumn 2022. Until then, the service will be operated with the ID.4. Via Astygo, customers can rent electric cars from VW as well as e-scooters from Seat MÓ and electric bikes from Ducati. The booking is made via smartphone using the integrated app Astymove.
By 2026, the island will gradually be converted to smart, sustainable mobility and the energy system will be completely renewed. To this end, a second solar park was recently put into operation to generate green electricity for the sharing vehicles and the private electric cars (see update from 21.04.2022). At the same time, the Europe-wide tender for the further transformation of the energy system has begun. By 2023, a large solar park is to be built that will supply around three megawatts of green electricity. This will then cover 100 per cent of the energy needs for e-mobility and more than 50 per cent of the islands’ general energy needs.
“Here on Astypalea, we are introducing new mobility services as the next step towards the future of transportation. It’s exciting to see the project grow, with people willing to change their habits,” said VW CEO Herbert Diess during a visit to the island. “It demonstrates that a rapid transformation to green mobility and green energy is feasible if businesses and governments work hand in hand.”