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Paradise regained?

19 May, 2023

Quaint, remote, and until now mostly renowned for its butterfly population and a Venetian castle, the island of Astypalea might not be your first guess for the location of a collaborative eco-mobility project between the Greek government and Volkswagen. But the Smart Sustainable project is transforming the island into an emission-free traffic, carbon neutral haven.     

With just 1300 residents, and a seasonal influx of tourists, Astypalea’s small and contained population makes it an ideal location for the project. A few years ago, there was no such thing as an e-vehicle on the island, but after the introduction of Volkswagen’s electric cars and buses, their mobility system is changing. An e-fleet management system to enable vehicle and ride sharing will reduce and optimise traffic, and an all-year round shuttle-on-demand system is set to improve public transport availability for permanent residents. 

The other element of the project is the plan to wean the islanders off their diesel generators, through the introduction of a renewable energy system, primarily dependent on solar power. Currently, Astypalean residents source their diesel, petrol and natural gas from the mainland, and pay 25% more than the average Greek citizen to do so. Switching over to green energy will therefore lead to significant savings for residents. The project also places great emphasis on local involvement; scientists from the University of Aegean and University of Strathclyde are closely evaluating resident responses to ensure their experiences remain at the forefront. 

Astypalea is an example of the Greek government’s investment in the GR-eco island national initiative, a vision to convert the Greek islands into models of sustainable development. The idea is that it will set a blueprint for other islands and regions to follow suit. It’s also a big leap in Volkswagen’s sustainability strategy to be climate neutral by 2050. 

The visionary transformation of Astypalea reflects the good that can come from effective collaborations between business and government. Pilot projects, on islands or elsewhere, are key in driving forward innovation. In this case, Volkswagen’s quest to put their innovation and insight to good use shows that the results can be electrifying. 

By Rosie Serlin

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