He dresses all in white and is the head of a tiny country that ranks among the lowest emitters in Europe, if not the world. But for decades now, the Pope’s official vehicle – a customised Mercedes Benz ML430 with a V8 petrol engine, bullet proof glass cabin and armour plating – has remained anything but fuel efficient.
Old Pope mobile cost £350k
Crawling at six miles per hour, the vehicle costs £350,000 and is designed to protect the Pope against shootings and bomb blasts. And given these very particular requirements, the Vatican has, in the past, ruled out the possibility of a more environmentally friendly pope mobile.
Vatican considers designs for green cars
But that may be about to change. Shortly before Christmas, the Vatican announced in its newspaper that it was ready to consider designs for a greener vehicle as one of the projects put forward for the Autostyle International Design Competition in 2012. Competition organiser Berman, an auto parts maker based in Italy, will now select students from across the planet to submit designs for the vehicle, with winners scheduled to be selected in October 2012.
Pope greenest Pontiff in history
The Pope is already famous for introducing a number of eco-friendly measures in the Vatican, which has earned him the reputation as being the greenest Pontiff in history. For a start, Benedict fitted solar panels on the main auditorium to convert sunlight into electricity, plus there is a cooling unit that uses solar power for the main cafeteria in the Vatican, which is a popular spot for tourists.
Vatican off-sets emissions
In addition, the Vatican has become part of a reforestation project which aims to offset emissions produced by greenhouse gases. The Pope has previously been quoted as saying that protecting the planet from greenhouse gases is a moral issue as man is expected to protect the planet for the benefit of future generations.
Hybrid Mercedes Benz maybe?
The question is: will the Pope now go ahead and introduce a greener version of the present vehicle used for official visits? A greener pope mobile has been in the works for some time. The Vatican said earlier in 2011 that the maker of the current vehicle, Mercedes Benz, was looking at a hybrid version. Now, with other designers involved in considering a greener form of transport for the Pontiff, an eco-pope mobile looks like a distinct possibility in the coming years. The best of the designs in the forthcoming competition will form a book to be published by the Vatican.
Catholic Church endorse green motoring
The key design considerations, other than drastically reducing emissions, are those which protect the pope from attack and seat him in an elevated position to wave at crowds with full visibility. It also needs to be able to accelerate quickly in the event of an emergency. All these considerations must be factored in at a reasonable price, given the vehicle is a donation to the Pope.
In terms of the green car movement, this represents just one vehicle but it sends a message to hundreds of millions of people. If the Pope makes a stand and chooses to travel in an eco-friendly car, then the Catholic Church will be endorsing green motoring.