The Popemobile Goes Green: A List Of The Pope’s Wheels From Past to Present

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These days, more people are choosing to go green by finding and using more environmentally friendly products. Pope Benedict XVI is no exception. He was recently presented with his first electric car, a customized white Renault Kangoo for use at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Renault also presented a blue version for the Vatican gendarms to use around Vatican City.

The Pope’s Wheels over the Years

For centuries, popes used carriages and sedan-chairs. The papal sedan-chair was carried by twelve “palafrenieri” in red uniforms. Only recently have they started using automobiles. At the beginning of the 20th century, the pope’s fleet included vehicle brands such as Fiat, Bianchi, Graham-Paige, Itala, Citroen, and others. But it wasn’t until 1930 that they first started using popemobiles, when Mercedes-Benz presented Pope Pius XI a Mercedes-Benz Nurberg 460.  Mercedes-Benz has been making customized popemobiles ever since. Some are open air, and others enclose the pope behind bulletproof glass. Some allow the pope to sit, and in others he stands. This variety allows the Vatican to select one appropriate to the situation. Here are some of the past popemobiles and other cars in the pope’s fleet:

  • Mercedes-Benz 300 d given to Pope John XXIII
  • 1964 custom built Lehmann-Peterson, used by Pope Paul VI in New York, 1965, and again in 1970 in Bogota
  • Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman-Landaulet for Pope Paul VI
  • Model 300 SEL from the 109 series for the fleet
  • A converted G-class car, first one to have a transparent superstructure, given to the Vatican
  • A special version of the Merecedes-Benz 500 SEL for the fleet
  • A long wheel-base landaulet version of the S 500, also for the fleet
  • A small truck based on the Polish FSC Star, for Pope John Paul II when he traveled to his home country
  • A Ford D series truck, used by Pope John Paul II’s trip to Ireland
  • A converted 230 G Gelandewagen for Pope John Paul II’s trip to Germany, 1980
  • A popemobile based on the ML 430 for Pope John Paul II in 2002


The Pope’s Newest Car, the Electric Renault Kangoo

The Pope’s newest car is a customized white Renault Kangoo. There are two versions of the electric Renault: the Kangoo Z.E. and the Kangoo Maxi Z.E. They feature the same practical functions as their internal combustion-engined counterparts (the Kangoo and Kangoo Maxi).


1. The Kangoo Z.E.

The Kangoo Z.E. is both comfortable and practical. It has a 22kWh battery and is powered by a 44kW electric motor which boasts 90 percent energy efficiency. This is far better than the 25 percent energy efficiency typical of internal combustion engines which have higher energy losses. The motor is also very quiet, while still getting up to 10,500 rpm. It has a carrying capacity of 3 to 3.5 cubic meters.

2. The Kangoo Maxi Z.E.

The Kangoo Maxi Z.E. is an extended version of the Kangoo Z.E. It will be available in two forms: a two-seater and a five-seater. The Kangoo Maxi Z.E. has more carrying capacity (up to 4.6 cubic meters) than the Kangoo Z.E. It has a combined cycle-range of up to 170 km.

They both have dashboard displays that keep the driver informed as to battery charge and range of operation. It also has an ‘econo’-meter, which shows the energy consumption use. There are three color coded levels: light blue for normal energy usage, dark blue for optimal energy usage, and red for excessive energy usage. Prices for the Kangoo start at 15,900 euros ($20,000).  Presumably the Pope’s car costs a good bit more with the


This is just an example of how the pope’s wheels have changed over the years, from pre-automobile times all the way to his newest electric car.

Chris Turberville-Tully is a marketing strategist for L and L Automotive, a dealership specializing in Mercedes-Benz, AMG, and Smart brands.

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