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Astypalea, a Greek island turning green thanks to Volkswagen

13.6.2022
Astypalea, a Greek island turning green thanks to Volkswagen

The "Smart & Sustainable Island" project is an inspiring lab for future mobility and decarbonization in Europe. Innovative shared mobility services replace conventional ones and new solar systems power electric cars.

In Astypalea, the mobility of the future is already becoming a reality. The project that will convert the Greek island to all-electric mobility has taken new steps forward with the activation of the "astyGO" vehicle sharing and "ASTYBUS" ride sharing services. The services were inaugurated in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess; they operate exclusively with 100% electric vehicles and greatly improve mobility on the island compared to the previous public transport system.

It is another step in the transformation of Astypalea, which will switch to smart and sustainable mobility by 2026 while modernizing its energy supply system.

Accelerating the transformation

The joint project of the Volkswagen Group and the Hellenic Republic serves as a laboratory from which to draw insights for a rapid decarbonization in Europe. "The discussion about the shift from fossil fuels to renewables has gained new momentum in Europe. Volkswagen Group is a driver of this change and is leading the transition to electric mobility in Europe. Here on Astypalea we are introducing new mobility services, taking another step towards the future of transportation. It is exciting to see the project grow, with people willing to change their habits. It demonstrates that if businesses and governments work together, a rapid transformation is feasible", Diess commented.

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Ride sharing and car sharing

The new smart mobility services replace a traditional bus line that so far offered public transportation limited to certain locations on the island and certain months of the year. The new services, however, will operate all year round and connect many more locations, with about thirty destinations. Five Volkswagen ID. Buzz will be used for ASTYBUS ride sharing from autumn 2022; until then, the service will be carried out with a fleet of ID.4.

"Customers can pay per single ride or choose a flat rate. For the islanders there is a very affordable annual pass, which costs 60 euros", explains Virginie Robin, Project Leader for Volkswagen. With the astyGO service, on the other hand, users can rent Volkswagen electric cars, SEAT MÓ electric scooters, and Ducati e-bikes (six of each type will be available initially) through the astyMOVE app.

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A single app for shared mobility

Indeed, the centerpiece of the new mobility offerings on Astypalea is the astyMOVE app, developed by SEAT:CODE. "What makes Astypalea special is the multimodal solution we implemented, based on our Giravolta software platform. On-demand shuttles, car sharing, electric scooters and e-bikes-all in one app", explains Jordi Abad, Technical Director for Mobility at SEAT:CODE.

The smartphone app is already available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for both tourists and locals, as Athanasia Sismani, who has already tried it, confirms: "It is very easy to use. I choose where I am and where I want to go, and within minutes the bus arrives". After the booking, the vehicle drives to the required stops, which are quite close to each other, reaching the busiest places on the island.

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Mobility for all

The astyGO and ASTYBUS services aim to meet all mobility needs of the islanders and their on-holiday guests. The central square "Plateia" in the main town of Chora, the ferry port, the airport or the villages of Livadi and Analipsi, as well as the most popular beaches of Astypalia are some of the main destinations of the ASTYBUS ride-sharing service, which covers many more areas than the old bus line.

Of course, as the seasons change, the number of people on the island changes. If before the service was interrupted at certain times, from now on three ASTYBUS shuttles will be operating all the time, while in summer there will be five vehicles. If demand grows, the Volkswagen Group is ready to expand the fleet.

The electric ecosystem

Meanwhile, the presence of electric vehicles in Astypalea continues to increase: after the police, airport authorities, and municipality administration already switched to electric last year, now it’s time for Greece's first 100% electric ambulance, based on Volkswagen e-Crafter. A first electric taxi transports customers on the island, and recently the first private customer received his own Volkswagen ID.3.

To power the growing fleet of electric vehicles, the island's energy system will be gradually converted to renewable energy from local sources. A second photovoltaic system was recently put into operation, which will power the current e-fleet with green energy. By 2023, a new solar park will provide about 3 MW of green electricity, covering 100 percent of the energy needed to charge the electric vehicles and more than 50 percent of the island's total energy demand. By 2026, the new energy system will be further expanded to cover more than 80 percent of total energy demand. Up until now, diesel generators have been used.

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Residents' interest

According to the preliminary results of an initial survey, in which 221 people took part last summer, people on Astypalea - where about 1,500 vehicles are currently on the road - are very interested in electric vehicles and mobility services. More than 65 percent of respondents said they would be willing to switch to an electric vehicle if they could take advantage of purchase incentives, pointing to environmental friendliness as the most important benefit of electric vehicles.

Ride sharing and vehicle sharing services are gathering support, as nearly half of respondents said that under certain conditions they would consider giving up their vehicle to use the new mobility services. There are currently twenty public charging points on the island, plus one new fast charging point, and forty electric vehicles are already circulating on the island, including some private cars.

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The future of Astypalea

The initiative will be monitored and evaluated over several years by researchers from the University of the Aegean (Greece) and the University of Strathclyde (Scotland). The first detailed interim report will be published in the second half of the year. The "Smart & Sustainable Island" project aims to provide a deeper understanding of the transformation of an entire system. Within five years, Astypalea, which welcomes about 36,000 tourists every year, will be largely converted to sustainable mobility and energy, with 100% electric vehicles, smart mobility services, and a green hybrid energy system.

SourceVolkswagen Newsroom

VGI | Responsible OU: VP | Creation date: article date | Class 9.1

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