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Volkswagen CEO meets with Greek PM, Tests Electric Cars, Transit Apps on Astypalea

Αssociated Press

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, listens Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess, center, during the official launch of a project to introduce and test electric vehicles and sustainable energy systems on the Aegean Sea island of Astypalea, Greece, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Alexandros Vlachos/Pool via AP)

ATHENS — German carmaker Volkswagen launched a five-year project Wednesday on the small Greek Aegean island of Astypalea to test the adoption of electric vehicles in areas switching to sustainable energy generation.

The 20-million-euro ($24.4 million) initiative will receive financial support from the Greek government. It will offer residents purchasing incentives to swap conventional vehicles for electric cars and scooters, and test ride-share applications and public transport models driven by customer demand instead of using fixed schedules and routes.

"This is 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," Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said during a presentation on the island.

Volkswagen has stepped up its plans to produce electric vehicles in recent years, in the wake of a major emissions scandal first discovered in the United States. The company eventually admitted installing deceptive software in millions of its diesel vehicles to make emissions appear less harmful when placed on a test machine.

The Astypalea project is "a window to a cleaner, greener future," Mitsotakis observed, addressing the event, and he underlined that tackling the "unprecedented climate change crisis is urgent."

Greece is already launching the process of ending dependency on lignite for power production, he added, and is also creating "green jobs."

Αssociated Press

A Volkswagen ID.4 electric car of the Civil Aviation is parked on the Aegean Sea island of Astypalea, Greece during the official launch of a project to introduce and test electric vehicles and sustainable energy systems on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Alexandros Vlachos/Pool via AP)

During his visit to the island, Mitsotakis attended the delivery of 8 electric cars and 12 chargers, a gift of the company, to the police and the Port Authority of the island.

A memorandum between the company and Greece to establish a groundbreaking mobility system on the island was signed in November 2020. The project is expected to initially run for six years, with energy primarily generated from local green power sources (solar and wind).

Greece is keen to develop power generation from renewable energy sources on its islands to replace expensive locally produced electricity, mostly using diesel.

The government plans to use wind and solar power for the Astypalea project. Officials said researchers from the Universities of the Aegean in Greece and Strathclyde in Scotland were also participating in the program.