Volkswagen will provide the Greek island of Astypalea with 1,000 electric vehicles in an effort to use the island as a testing ground for electric infrastructure. The group will provide police vehicles, emergency vehicles, buses, and fleet vehicles to the island, replacing its current fleet of around 1,500 internal combustion vehicles.

Astypalea currently gets the majority of its energy from fossil fuels, but it trying to become a leader in sustainable tourism. Although the island only has 1,300 residents, it is visited by 72,000 tourists each year.

The island is only 11 miles long and 8 miles wide at its longest point, so public transit is very limited, but VW hopes to make things more connected. It will also install 230 private charging points and several more public ones. 

“Electric transport and a holistic, green, and sustainable action plan will have a positive impact on the everyday life of the island's inhabitants,” said Konstantinos Fragogiannis, Greece’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. “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.”

Today marked the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Greece and Volkswagen marking the start point of this project that will initially run for six years. The power for the EVs will primarily be generated from local power sources like solar and wind power.

“Politics, business, and society have a common responsibility to limit climate change. Our long-term goal is climate-neutral mobility for everyone,” said Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group. “And with the Astypalea project, we will explore how to realize that vision already today. E-mobility and smart mobility will improve the quality of life while contributing to a carbon-neutral future.”

The island is currently powered by four diesel generators, according to Fragogiannis, but the country hopes to be to turn those generators off in two years. They will, at that point, be replaced by solar panels and wind turbines. The goal is ultimately to make Astypalea completely self-sufficient in terms of power.

The plan for electric vehicle adoption is to promote the purchase of electric vehicles to private individuals. The two buses on the island, meanwhile, will be replaced by ridesharing services, which the island hopes will make transit more reliable.

For the tourists, meanwhile, the Greek government is hoping to make rental cars and vehicles electric. According to VW, how the project moves into the future will depend on feedback from the island’s residents and the tourists. 

As to why they chose the tiny island, the prime minister said:

A relatively modest island offers two important advantages. Firstly, we can completely change the energy system and mobility offers. Second: We can observe how the project changes the community. We ruled out large islands like Crete or Rhodes for cost reasons. Very small islands with a few hundred people are also out of the question because the results would not be representative. Astypalea with 1,300 inhabitants has the appropriate scale. The road network is sufficient to test e-vehicles and mobility services. Another important argument was the support among the inhabitants.