Pope Benedict XVI goes ‘green’ with new electric cars

The Holy See is going green.

French automaker Renault presented Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday with two electric cars based off the Kangoo Maxi Z.E., an electric version of the Kangoo delivery van used throughout Europe.

“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,” said Monsieur Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault Group.

Both vehicles have 60 horsepower and a range of more than 100 miles. One car, painted white with the papal coat of arms on the door, will be used when the pope travels to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. The other car, blue with a gold and white strip along its sides, will be used by the papal security force, the Corps of Gendarmerie, in Vatican City.

The cars were made with the help of French coachbuilder Gruau, and the vehicles are set up to seat four people, with two special seats in the rear for the pope’s comfort.

Earlier this year, the Italian automaker NWG gave the Vatican press office an electric car. During his papacy, Benedict has stressed the need for sustainable development and respect for the environment, earning him the nickname the “Green Pope.”

In 2008, the Vatican put solar panels on its roof and, a year later, installed a solar cooling unit in its main cafeteria.

And in 2010, the pope expressed interest in getting an electric vehicle to replace his decked-out Mercedes.

“Let us hope that the international community and individual governments will succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment,” the pope wrote in his 2009 encyclical.

“[T]he protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet,” he continued.

However, the gifts from Renault are not meant to replace the iconic Popemobile because electric cars are deemed too slow and lack special security features required for transporting the pope.

Mercedes, the company that makes the official Popemobile, is working on a hybrid version to meet the pope’s wishes of an environmentally friendly vehicle.

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