VW, Greece turning island into electrified showplace

‘Lighthouse project’ designed to be a model for climate-neutral mobility

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Astypalea
Greek island will be transformed into electric-powered showcase of sustainability | Volkswagen illustrations

In what is being called the “Lighthouse project,” Volkswagen and the Greek government will turn the island of Astypalea into a model for climate-neutral mobility. Under the plan, all transport on the island will become electrified and the island will switch to renewable power generation, the partners said in their announcement.

The goal, said Herbert Diess, chief executive of the Volkswagen Group, is to demonstrate how “e-mobility and connected mobility services will significantly improve the quality of life while contributing to a carbon-neutral future.”

“Politics, business and society have a common responsibility to limit climate change,” he added. “Our long-term goal is climate-neutral mobility for everyone. And with the Astypalea project, we will explore how to realize that vision.”

“I strongly believe in partnerships. Governments can’t deliver on their own and the private sector isn’t the answer to every question,” said Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister. 

Konstantinos Fragogiannis, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, explained: “Today is a great day for Astypalea, the Dodecanese Region, the Aegean Sea and all of Greece. Today we are launching the first ‘Smart Green Island’ project in our country, which marks a major change in our outlook. 

“Electric transport and a holistic, green and sustainable action plan will have a positive impact on the everyday life of the island’s inhabitants. Combined with a pioneering public transport system, we are turning futuristic ideas into reality. Today Greece shows that it is ready to adopt groundbreaking, innovative and flagship investments that take society to another level of connectedness, smart sustainability and innate usability.”

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The heart of the project is a new transportation system with digital mobility services, including an all-electric year-round ridesharing service to replace the island’s bus service.

Meanwhile, the island’s vehicle rental business will transition to a vehicle-sharing program that includes electric-powered scooters, bikes and cars.

“This alone will help to significantly reduce the vehicle fleet on the island,” the partners said. “In total, some 1,000 electric vehicles shall replace about 1,500 vehicles with combustion engines.”

Commercial vehicles will also switch to electric power, as well as police and emergency-service vehicles. Volkswagen will install its Elli chargers at 230 places across the island.

Astypalea is located in the southern Aegean Sea. It spans more than 38 square miles, has a resident population of 1,300 and annually attracts 72,000 tourists. It currently has a bus system that includes only two electric-powered vehicles.

“Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity,” the announcement quotes Margo Oge, former director of the office of transportation air quality for the US Environmental Protection Agency and current member of VW’s sustainability council. 

“E-mobility, in conjunction with renewable energy, will help reduce the worst impacts of climate change. There is an Aristotle saying: ‘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.”

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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