Pope Benedict XVI Goes Green

FIATlogo
FIATlogo

Pope Benedict XVI, the current head of the Roman Catholic Church, holds a special fondness for electric vehicles. This was made known when the Vatican revealed that the Pontiff was eager to count an electric vehicle as among the fleet of armored cars he would be using in undertaking his Papal duties. He also is the first Pope to have solar panels installed on the roofs of some of the buildings in and around the Vatican.

This goal has finally been realized by French carmaker Renault. The company has donated to the Vatican for the Pope’s use two new electric cars, designed from the car firm’s Kangoo Maxi Z.E. The design platform is an upgraded version of the Kangoo delivery van popularly used in Europe.

The first new Papal electric vehicle is painted white, with the Vatican coat of arms proudly emblazoned on the doors. The car’s main use would be for the Pope’s travel to his summer residence located in Castel Gandolfo. The second Papal electric vehicle would be used by the Corps of Gendarmerie Corps of the Vatican. The corps is the Pope’s very own police force and the vehicle would be painted blue with yellow and white striping down the side.

The vehicles are able to produce 60 horsepower and have a range of over 100 miles. The electric motor is rated at forty four kilowatt hours and has a lithium ion battery array. The Kangoo is equipped with a spacious rear bench that can accommodate two individual rear seats that is the common design for the Pope. It has an opening roof and a retractable step ladder to make boarding and alighting easier. These new features were integrated into the Kangoo platform through the expertise of French coachbuilder Gruau. The electric vehicles were handed over to the Pope personally by Renault Chairperson and CEO Carlos Ghosn. The vehicles though were not intended to replace the renowned “Popemobile” as it was deemed that electric cars are “too slow”, especially with the heavy armor requirements to protect the Pope. The presence of these vehicles would certainly assist in lowering the Vatican’s carbon footprint in the long run.

Pope Benedict XVI is known as the “Green Pope” because of his strong views on environmental issues. The Kangoo is essentially an upgraded golf cart that costs about Euro 15,900 or about U.S. $20,000. In another environmental move, Mercedes, the maker of the Popemobile, is working on a hybrid model to protect not only the Pope but the environment as well.

The Electric Cars Coming Soon

electricsedan
electricsedan

By the year 2014, quite a number of electric vehicles would be arriving in showrooms near you. The carmakers are Fiat, Mitsubishi and Tesla, and have confirmed new vehicles to come very soon.

For Chrysler and its partner Fiat, CEO Sergio Marchionne sent the word out through Twitter that the electric Fiat 500 would start production by year’s end. The tweet read, “At Chrysler we are working on an electric version of the Fiat 500 that we’ll begin manufacturing later this year.”

The question would be its market availability either by late 2012 or early 2013, but a Chrysler Canada spokesperson had confirmed that the Fiat 500 EV would be sold in Canada. The vehicle is expected to compete with the new Smart ForTwo EV by Mercedes-Benz that would be made available come September.

Other rivals for electric vehicle supremacy are the Toyota iQ and the Honda Fit EV. While these vehicles are still to be confirmed as available in Canada, Toyota is pushing ahead with the introduction of the RAV4 EV when the Canadian International Auto Show opens in Toronto. The RAV4 EV would be going head to head with the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in EV, which would be unveiled in the Geneva Auto Show in March. For its part, Mitsubishi had started advertising the Outlander and the range extended EV would be available for sale during the 2012 fiscal year. According to a statement from the Japanese carmaker, “(The Outlander) will use a plug in hybrid system derived from MMC’s already existing EV technology.”

The third and most intriguing announcement came from Tesla, as it opened with its Model X crossover. The biggest splash for this EV platform is the falcon-wing rear doors. They are similar to the gull wing door design as they open upwards but an extra hinge allows it to be folded inward towards the body of the vehicle. The company said that the doors are not concept features but are actually headed for production.

This uses the same flat battery set-up of the Model S sedan and has cargo space both at the front and back even if all seats are occupied.  The Model X would be all wheel driven and would have either the 60 or 85 kWh battery packs that would be able to travel 370 and 480 kilometers. The Model X would weigh ten percent more than the Model S sedan but would be able to travel from 0 to 96 km/h in just 4.4 seconds.

With these new vehicles coming up, who says the electric car revolution is slowing down?