Peter Anderson | Sep 7, 2012

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn yesterday presented two all-electric Popemobiles to Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence.

The new Popemobiles are based on the Kangoo Maxi Z.E. and have been modified for papal use.

Coachbuilder Gruau set to work on the Kangoo, adding an opening roof, removable side windows, and hinged rear side-doors.

Folding steps have also been added to facilitate dignified entry and exit (as befitting of a Pontiff), as well as "two particularly comfortable separate seats at the rear".

The first of the electric SPMs (Sustainable Pope Movers) is a white model with the Papal insignia on the side, for use at the Pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The second, a blue mover with white and yellow stripes, is for use by the Corps of Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City for the Pope's security when in Rome and Vatican City itself.

The two cars are 4.6 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and powered by a 44kW electric motor with a combined cycle range of 170km.

Popemobile (Papamobile in Italian) is a term coined during the reign of Benedict's predecessor John Paul II.

Before motorised transport, Popes were carried around on the shoulders of guards in a sort of sedan chair known as the sedia gestatora. It fell out of use in 1978 (although no Popes are reported to have themselves fallen out).

The original Popemobile was used by JPII on his first trip to Poland. A modified Polish truck, the FSC Star, it was hardly the last word in style or sophistication, but it did the job - albeit at an incredibly leisurely 6km/h.

A Ford D-Series was used in his 1979 visit to Ireland, and in 1980, Mercedes-Benz built a modified Gelandewagen for His Holiness' visit to Germany.

Others have included a Seat Panda, an armour-plated Leyland and a GMC Sierra.

One of John Paul II's Popemobiles was loaned to the Phillipines, marking a pilgrimage point for the Filipino faithful unable to make the trip to Rome.

The last Popemobile was based on the Mercedes M-Class, with what looks like a telephone box perched at the rear.

Before his passing, Pope John Paul II had asked for the media to stop referring to the car as the Popemobile, considering it undignified.

The Kangoo Z.E. based vehicles are unlikely to be used for bigger events, as security concerns in some areas force the use of armoured cars like the M-Class versions.

For Renault, however, it's a pretty good publicity stunt.

“This donation to His Holiness is a means for Renault to reaffirm its strong and durable commitment to sustainable development and respect for the environment,” Carlos Ghosn said.


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