Pope Francis has been a relatively progressive pope — at least when it comes to matters of the environment. I’ve been a fan since Pope Francis traded a Ford Focus for a 1984 Renault 4 that ran on biofuel back in 2013. Since then, he’s done a few other car-based things I like, too — like removing the bulletproof glass that had been shielding some previous popes and, just this past week, announcing a new, zero emission popemobile based on the hydrogen fuel-cell powered Toyota Mirai.
The relative pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells notwithstanding, the Pope’s use of the Mirai while he’s visiting the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan in — er, Japan (sorry) — will undoubtedly raise the visibility of both the Toyota Mirai and the controversial fuel everywhere he goes in it.
About the Mirai itself, however, this one uses the same 153 HP electric motor as the 2020 Toyota Mirai you and I can buy, which is fed electrons by a hydrogen-electric generator. Toyota says the powertrain provides a range of around 310 miles between refills, which require a hydrogen fuel station (no plugging this one in at home, in other words). This one, however, has a redesigned rear end with an elevated seat and safety cage, which allows the Pope’s followers to see him clearly during his public appearances.
The pope-ready Mirai also features high-intensity LED lighting system, a pair of Vatican diplomat flags for the front fenders, and a pair of golden Vatican insignias further back. Of course, there’s also a convenience step-up in the rear door sill to allow the Pope easy access to the rear of his zero-emission roadster.
The Mirai may not be your cuppa — and neither might Francis. Still, this popemobile is much more than a cynical PR move from Toyota, and seems to have been a choice that was heavily influenced by Francis himself. Pope Francis, of course, holds a masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires. His knowledge has led to a deep interest in environmental matters, which he shared in his Laudato si’ in 2015. That paper was an appeal to all to safeguard the earth and all that surrounds us, changing our lifestyle to preserve our ‘common home’ of Earth.
What do you think of the new popemobile? Is it a genuine improvement over the diesel-fueled, bulletproof Mercedes’ of the past, or just another marketing push for the hydrogen lobbyists? Scroll on down to the comments section and let us know.