German carmaker Volkswagen delivered eight electric vehicles to Astypalea on Wednesday, marking the launch of the transition to full electrification on the Greek island.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended the delivery ceremony along with Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess.
At the "Astypalea: Smart & sustainable island - Progress Report, from vision to action" presentation, Diess stressed that "Astypalea is Europe's future workshop in phasing out lignite dependency."
The Volkswagen executive also stated that "learnings will help to accelerate the transformation towards sustainable mobility and green energy in Greece," adding that "Astypalea can become a blue print for a rapid transformation, fostered by the close collaboration of governments and businesses."
The five-year project aims to transform Astypalea into the first 'smart and sustainable island', which will serve as an example for the 'green' transition of other islands.
"This will be very valuable knowledge because what we are going to see on this island in the next five, six, or seven years will probably last in the rest of Europe for 20 years or three decades," Diess added.
The €20 million initiative will receive financial support from the Greek government.
Greece is keen to develop power generation from renewable energy sources on its islands to replace expensive locally produced electricity, mostly using diesel.
"What we are implementing here in Astypalea is nothing less than a new beginning. A gateway to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable world, beyond internal combustion engines. Where energy feeds our lives, without harming our plane," the Greek PM underlined.
"Astypalea will be a test bed for the green transition: energy autonomous, and entirely powered by nature," Mitsotakis added.
The cars will initially be used by the police, coastguard and at the local airport. The island's bus service will also be replaced with a ride-sharing scheme.
200 electric cars will be available for locals and tourists to rent, while there will be subsidies for the island's 1,300 inhabitants to buy electric vehicles, bikes and chargers.
Some 12 chargers have already been installed across the island and 16 more will follow.
The Greek PM also stressed that the 'Astypalea project' "will offer us knowledge and lessons, which we hope to use in the future on a larger scale throughout Greece and beyond."
Mitsotakis thanked the Regional Governor, the Mayor and the residents on the island, who as he said "from the first moment embraced this innovative idea".
Scientists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and the University of the Aegean in Greece will be monitoring and systematically evaluating the transformation on Astypalea. The study will focus on the people of Astypalea and their attitudes towards the transformation.
On his part, the Governor of the Southern Aegean Region George Hatzimarkos, stated that the "inauguration is a historic moment, at which a very interesting and promising journey begins. The Astypalea project is a milestone for the South Aegean Region and for Greece."