All sorts of vehicles have been pressed into service to carry Popes, from simple Fiats to giant Mercedes-Benz luxury landaulets.
Francis, the current Pope, has a preference for small, simple, environmentally friendly cars—and largely does without the bulletproof glass enclosures found in some previous “Popemobiles.”
His latest vehicle is entirely electric and, perhaps to the surprise of some Europeans, it’s made in Michigan.
Specifically, it’s an Opel Ampera-e, the rebadged and minimally restyled European sibling of the car known in North America as the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
It fits neatly with Vatican City’s goal of becoming the first country in the world to emit no carbon, through use of renewable energy sources and electric vehicles.
Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann presented the keys of a new Opel Ampera-e to Pope Francis during the conference “Laudato Sì: the Sustainability of Communication and Innovation.”
Pope Benedict XVI takes delivery of his new M Class Popemobile at the Vatican, December 2012
That event, which convened representatives of institutions, entrepreneurs, experts and opinion leaders, addressed key environmental sustainability issues.
Among the discussions were the shape and carbon footprint of future mobility.
As part of its contribution, the carmaker pledged to work with the Vatican and Italian energy company Enel on a program of sustainable mobility for the entire city-state.
Opel notes that the Ampera-e is rated at 520 kilometers (323 miles) on the NEDC test cycle used in European Union countries.
Pope Paul VI’s 1965 Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousine popemobile
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has an EPA-rated combined range of 238 miles, a figure considered more realistic for North American use patterns.
Like the Bolt EV, all Opel Ampera-e electric cars are made at a General Motors assembly plant in Orion, Michigan, along with the Chevrolet Sonic compact sedan and hatchback.
In March, GM reached a deal to sell its European unit—including the Opel and British Vauxhall brands—to PSA Peugeot Citroën.
The French parent of the Citroën, DS and Peugeot brands will pay 2.2 billion euros (approximately $2.33 billion) for the brands, factories, and the rest of the operations.
Opel will continue to be supplied with Ampera-e electric cars for some years to come, though responsibility for its successor will fall to the French company.