Pope Benedict XVI goes green with electric Popemobile

Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE electric PopemobileThe Vatican is one of the smallest sovereign states on Earth, but it’s still concerned about carbon emissions. Pope Benedict XVI recently added a new vehicle (Popemobile to us heathens) to his official fleet, and it is powered by electricity.

The new Popemobile is based on the Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE, an electric version of the compact van Renault sells in Europe. In place of an internal combustion engine, the Kangoo has a 60 hp electric motor and a lithium ion battery pack.

This Popemobile clearly isn’t built for speed, but at least people will have plenty of time to see the Pope as he passes by. The battery pack yields a 105-mile range, which should be more than adequate for this application. Renault says Benedict XVI will use the Kangoo for transportation at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, which is only five square miles.

Modifications for Papal service include a redesigned interior from French coachbuilder Gruau, with two bucket seats replacing the stock taxi-like bench. A traditional all-white paint scheme with the Papal coat of arms lets everyone know who is riding in this Renault.

However, unlike other Popemobiles, the Kangoo does not have an elevated glass box for putting the leader of the Catholic faith on display. Since it will be transporting the Pope in private, there really is no need. Still, the Kangoo’s big windows and sunroof should allow it to pinch-hit as parade transportation if necessary.

The Pope’s usual transportation consists of a fleet of modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs; the Vatican has also used the Mercedes G-Class for past Popemobiles.

The Kangoo Maxi ZE Popemobile was presented to the Pope by Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Through an ever-expanding line of Nissan (Leaf, eNV200, Infiniti LE) and Renault (ZE models) EVs, Ghosn has made electric propulsion a priority at the French and Japanese juggernauts. Building an EV for the Pope shows that there is always a new niche, even at the Vatican.