VW transforms Greek island into mobility and green energy showcase
Volkswagen continues to turn the Greek island of Astypalea into a full-blown lab for future mobility. The latest update reports that practically every new car registered on the island in the Aegean sea is electric. And that is just private vehicles.
Volkswagen Group and the Greek government agreed in November 2020 to establish a “pioneering mobility system” on Astypalea. The plans included introducing shared electric mobility and rental services with e-bikes, scooters, and electric cars. In the next step, all commercial vehicles busy in the local economy and official cars, such as police, ambulances and public sector vehicles, were also to be electrified. Volkswagen then planned to install Elli’s wall box chargers throughout the island.
Most of these initiatives have been completed or launched by now, with regular updates coming in about every six months. Sales of private vehicles started in June 2021, although it took Volkswagen until April 2022 to deliver the array of the e-Up, ID.3 and ID.4, and the Seat Mó eScooter 125.
The Greek government successfully supported the transition to e-mobility with purchase premiums. Volkswagen and Greece today reported that the number of electric vehicles on Astypalea rose from nearly zero to 84 in a short time, and almost all new cars to be registered on Astypalea are now fully electric.
The other services envisioned in 2020 have also been rolled out, and VW has first use data. 25 per cent of the inhabitants regularly use the ASTYBUS service and completed more than 200,000 kilometres over the last twelve months. By now, the ridesharing service has replaced the traditional bus line. Unlike the regular transport, ASTYBUS operates up to five vehicles all year round and connects many more places on the island.
The new bus service is flanked by the integrated vehicle-sharing service astyGO, which offers rental electric cars from Volkswagen and e-scooters from Seat MÓ and e-bikes from Ducati. The booking is made via smartphone via the astyMOVE app.
A scientific survey showed 97% approval for ASTYBUS, with users appreciating the flexible use combined with low prices. The survey also showed that on Astypalea, costs are a decisive factor in switching to electric cars. The charging infrastructure, on the other hand, is no longer seen as an obstacle.
Maik Stephan, Head of Business Development of the Volkswagen Group, said the change in attitude towards the new service was “particularly impressive” and ran from initial scepticism to great approval. “This shows that rapid transformation is possible if companies, politicians and society work together.”
Volkswagen’s work isn’t yet complete. After transforming transport on Astypalea, the next step is to renew the energy system, writes the company. While existing smaller solar plants are supplying, among other things, the current electric fleet with green energy, the whole island shall go green.
The next milestone is the construction of a hybrid power system, consisting of a solar park with a capacity of 3,5 megawatts and a battery storage system, which is scheduled to start operation in 2024. Volkswagen states that this system will cover 100 per cent of the island’s energy needs for e-mobility and up to 60 per cent of its general energy needs. The Greece-first tender for this energy project was recently closed, but the company has yet to publish the winner.
By 2026, the energy system is to be further expanded and, in the final stage, will cover around 80 per cent of the total energy demand. So far, the island has mainly been supplied with electricity from diesel generators, which emit up to 5,000 tons of CO2 per year.
“Over the next two decades, we will see many of the changes that make up the Astypalea project in other regions of Europe as well,” said Maik Stephan.
The ‘Smart & Sustainable Island’ project is a joint initiative of the Volkswagen Group and Greece designed to include 360-degree change. In 2022, the partners launched a recycling initiative to free the island from scrap vehicles, with volunteers collecting broken vehicles to be professionally recycled in Athens.