Pope Benedict XVI has a new all-electric set of wheels, befitting his growing "Green Pope" status as an environmentally friendly (or at least concerned) Pontiff. The emissions-free vehicle is a gift from Renault, a Kangoo Maxi Z.E. modified into Popemobile form with help from utility vehicle specialists Gurau.
The spec remains a little vague, but what details Renault has released exactly match those of a regular Kangoo Maxi Z.E. The Popemobile (and Renault's press release calls it precisely that) is powered by a lithium-ion battery driving a 44-kW (60-hp) electric motor. The vehicle achieves a claimed combined-cycle range of 170 km (106 miles). A combined cycle, according to the New European Driving Cycle, averages fuel or energy consumption over both urban and "extra-urban" (i.e., er, rural) driving, with the idea that the range is representative of differing driving conditions.
Among the modifications to the Kangoo Maxi Z.E. are an opening roof, removable side windows and "particularly comfortable separate seats" to the rear, as well as electrically folding door steps for easier access.
In fact, Renault has given two vehicles to the Vatican: a white one, with the Papal coat of arms on the doors, for His Holiness, and a second, with blue livery, for the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, the city-states police and security service. The Pope's new wheels are intended for use at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence.
The Kangoo Maxi Z.E. Popemobile is not the Pontiff's first EV. That honor befell an NWG Zero gifted to His Holiness in July of this year for use in the Vatican itself.
Technologically, Popemobiles have come along away since the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 of 1930, via the 1964 Lincoln Continental Lehmann-Peterson which reportedly included a hand crank to elevate its distinguished passenger an extra foot off the ground.
And though EVs are only as clean as the energy source which charges them, this latest Popemobile surely treads more lightly upon the Earth than John Paul II's FCS Star (1979) and GMC Sierra (1984)—veritable tanks in comparison, though admittedly conceived for overseas tours (images of both, among others, here).
The Vatican has set a target of 20 percent of its electricity to be provided by 2020. In 2011, 24.5 percent of all energy consumed in Italy came from renewable sources, and investment in renewable energy has grown rapidly there in recent years.