Volkswagen to turn Astypalaia in Greece into smart, sustainable island

Photo: Volkswagen


November 4, 2020



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November 4, 2020



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A community of 1,300 permanent residents in the Aegean will be transformed with carbon-free solutions. Volkswagen agreed with Greece to help abolish fossil fuels in the island of Astypalaia by introducing all-electric vehicles and accompanying systems. Together with the installation of renewables, they are establishing a model that can be applied in Europe and beyond.

Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy of Greece Kostas Fragkogiannis and Chairman of Volkswagen Group’s Management Board Herbert Diess signed a memorandum of understanding, marking the beginning of a project that lays the foundations for enabling autonomous driving in Astypalaia. The island, located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, was chosen to become a showcase for sustainable mobility and energy independence.

The German automaker said it would first supply and install equipment to enable a complete switch to electromobility and smart mobility. The plan is to replace the current fleet of 1,500 vehicles with electric ones, from scooters to ambulances and light commercial vehicles, and reduce their number by a third.

Fewer vehicles are needed with smart mobility services

Greece has the task to develop infrastructure and replace the existing four diesel generators with a hybrid system with battery storage. The government said it would lean on solar and wind power. The new energy sources are planned to cover most of the electricity demand.

Mitsotakis: Astypalaia can set an example of how small communities can benefit from addressing old problems with new solutions

The project starts in the first quarter of next year and it is scheduled for completion by the end of 2026. The two sides revealed they would roll out smart mobility services and that fewer vehicles will be needed in Astypalaia with ridesharing.

The island has three settlements and 1,300 permanent residents, but 70,000 tourists visit it per year. An all-electric shuttle service, available on demand day and night through a mobile application, will improve public transportation, according to project participants. There are currently two buses available and the routes don’t cover the whole of Astypalaia, sometimes spelled Astypalea.

Volkswagen Astypalaia Greece smart sustainable island
Photo: Volkswagen

Autopilot options to be addressed in subsequent stages

Autonomous driving is a longer-term goal, Volkswagen and the Balkan country’s government said and vowed to work first on semiautonomous functions.

The Greek state took on the responsibility to develop necessary legislation for incentives for the local population. Fragkogiannis claimed domestic banks agreed to provide attractive loans. The plan envisages 230 private and several public charging points.

“Astypalaia can and will become a model of sustainable development, not just at the national but at a European and a global level. It can set an example of how small communities can benefit from addressing old problems with new solutions,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Volkswagen to deploy its flagship electric models

“Politics, business and society have a common responsibility and common interest to limit climate change and to protect good living conditions on this planet. Second, climate protection and carbon-free mobility do not mean a loss of quality of life. Instead, they make life healthier, cleaner, easier, more convenient,” Diess stated.

Volkswagen’s CEO underscored the automotive giant would use its models e-up!, ID.3 and ID.4 and that its commercial branch would contribute the vehicles for public authorities and services.

Margo Tsirigotis Oge from the Wolfsburg-based company’s Sustainability Council stressed the Astypalea project would serve as a laboratory. “In the course of the cooperation, challenges will arise that neither Volkswagen nor the Greek government can foresee today. There will be progress, but also difficulties. The partners should communicate this openly and report regularly on the status of implementation,” she said.

Volkswagen began its study earlier this year on the island of Thasos.

Comments (1)
Olivier Crouzier / November 13, 2020

Islands allow to make experiments. I think that it is necessary to test such an experiment at a community level to test all the issues at the same time (electricity storage, recharge stations positionning, overall impact of e-cars). You may also find interesting Curaçao experiment to use ethanol from recombination of H2 and CO2 on fossil fuel cars.
Reuse of cars is an issue as it is better not to throw away existing cars.
Coverting existing cars in e-cars may be thought twice also especially in islands (Saint Helena, Wallis & Futuna for example) where car wrecks should be send back to the main land or sunk somewhere around to create fish habitats. Some options should be tested in // to identify which is the best option in each island configuration (distance from the mainland, size, wealth).

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