Let's all move to the electric island

Views of a castle, e-scooter ready to go, electric shuttle to the beach... count me in.

Small-island-living has its appeal, and now more than ever with everything that’s going on it the world. But an electric island? Yes please.

This is something that’s happening in Greece on the island of Astypalea. With the help of Volkswagen, Greece is abolishing all fossil fuels on the island and installing renewable energy — a model that could be applied across the rest of Europe and beyond.

The island, which is located in the Aegean sea, will become the model for climate-neutral mobility and will lay the foundations for autonomous driving. Step one is to install the equipment needed to make a complete switch to electric mobility. This means that VW will replace the current fleet of 1,500 vehicles — including ambulances and light commercial vehicles — with 1,000 electric ones.

While only 1,300 people live on the island, it hosts 72,000 tourists each year with a limited public transport service. As part of the deal with VW, a new electric shuttle service will be launched to serve visitors who want to get around the island.

Of course, it’s not just the fleet of vehicles that needs to be upgraded to electric power, there’s a lot that needs to be done to improve infrastructure and personal mobility, too. Volkswagen is working with local partners to transform certain aspects of island life. For example, traditional rental car businesses will also offer e-scooters and e-bikes alongside EVs.

The island is also looking to develop renewable energy sources to power its green mobility solutions, further reducing the impact of the vehicles.

Alone, this is a cool story but it’s actually an important trial in converting public authority vehicles and public transport to electric power. If this trial is a success, it could be used to model future transformations of small areas before this kind of work is rolled out on a wider scale.

This project will show just what’s possible in a small space. The six-year plan is also likely to throw up all manner of challenges and issues that no one could forsee. These difficulties serve as an important learning opportunity for everyone involved that could make similar projects run more smoothly in the future.

The blueprint the Astypalea project will create will be important in the future, even if other public authorities, towns, cites and small areas only reference certain parts of it.

I’m already eyeing up Astypalea for my next holiday — when we’re allowed to travel again, of course.

Have something to say? Hit reply to this email and let me know what you think of VW’s quest to create an electric island.

Future Drive is a project from mobility expert Jess Shanahan. To find out more about her and her work, visit jessshanahan.com.

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