VW turns Greek island into lab for future mobility
Volkswagen has launched two mobility services on the Greek island of Astypalea: Astybus, for ridesharing; and Astygo, for vehicle sharing. VW sees Astypalea as a laboratory for future mobility. Curiously, it’s not the only Greek island with that role. Citroën is electrifying mobility on neighbouring Halki.
On 2 July, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis inaugurated both services. The presence of both dignitaries underlines the importance that both Greece and VW attach to the success of Astypalea, a popular tourist destination, as a ‘future mobility lab’.
Replacing conventional bus operations with full-electric BEVs, Astybus and Astygo aim to both radically improve mobility and rapidly reduce emissions on the island. Unlike the bus line, the new mobility services will operate year-round and serve many more destinations.
- Astybus starts its rideshare operations with the ID.4, to be replaced by five VW ID.Buzz vehicles, when that model is launched in the autumn of this year.
- Astygo allows customers can use the Astymove app on their phone to rent electric cars from VW, electric scooters from SEAT and electric bikes from Ducati.
VW’s electrifying presence on the island predates these two latest projects. Last year, the police, airport authorities and city administration switched to e-mobility. This year, the island will have Greece’s first electric ambulance. A first e-taxi is transporting customers, and the first private customer recently received their ID.3.
By 2026, Astypalea wants to have a smart mobility system based on a sustainable energy system. As such, the Greek island serves as a laboratory for the rapid decarbonisation of Europe.
In terms of energy provision, the island is switching to locally sourced, sustainable power. On the same day the two new VW services were launched, a second solar system providing electricity to the island’s e-fleet went into operation. By 2023, a new solar park will provide 3 megawatt, which will not only cover all of the power needs for the EVs, but also 50% of the island’s overall energy demand – and by 2026, up to 80%. Until now, the island was powered mainly by diesel generators.
A survey conducted last summer shows high interest among locals in mobility alternatives. More than 65% of the island’s inhabitants said they would switch to EVs, if the purchase grants were sufficient. Almost 50% said they would give up their own car and switch to mobility services – under certain conditions.
Greek islands appear to be a favourite place for OEMs to test the future of mobility. In November last year, Citroën announced it wants to transform Halki, also in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, into an emission-free, energy-autonomous eco-island. This by replacing all vehicles on the island by EVs and building the photovoltaic installations required to power them.
Citroën boasts Halki will become Greece’s first ‘eco-island’. However, the manufacturer has not specified when its project will be completed. So there’s still a chance that VW may beat their French competitors to it on nearby Astypalea.
Finally, it’s not just Greek islands that are popular testing grounds for making mobility more sustainable. Renault is conducting similar projects on no less than three islands: Fernando de Noronha (Brazil), Belle-Île-en-Mer (France) and Porto Santo (Portugal).
Image: Volkswagen Group