ROME — Pope Francis on Tuesday received a new electric car, a sign of a partnership between European car maker Opel and the Vatican, to help the microstate become the world’s first “Carbon free” country.
The gift of the Opel Ampera-e was made during a conference about Francis’s 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si’ sponsored by the Vatican’s new Secretariat for Communication.
The conference brought together world leaders in politics, academia, and business to discuss environmental sustainability, including in the transport industry.
Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said he was “proud” to contribute to the “ambitious goals” of the Vatican City State.
The Vatican, Opel, and Italian energy firm Enel pledged to work together on a sustainable mobility program for Vatican City.
Although only 110 acres, Vatican City does have its own vehicle fleet, and its SCV license plate is a common sight in Rome. Cars are needed not only for high-ranking Vatican officials, but also staff such as gardeners and the Vatican police department.
The Ampera-e was released earlier this year, and claims to be the first fully electric car to be able to travel over 300 miles on a single charge.
Neumann told the conference the future of the automobile is electric power, and even predicted that self-driving cars will become common sooner than expected. He said the car industry would change more in the next five years than it has in the last fifty.
In 2011, it was announced Mercedes was building a special hybrid popemobile for Pope Benedict XVI (although it wasn’t delivered until shortly after Francis took office.)
However, in 2012, Benedict did receive a pair of electric cars from the auto maker Renault, one for use in the Vatican City State and the other for the pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
It was all part of Benedict’s push to get the Vatican to practice what it preached on the environment.
The Vatican Climate Forest was established in Hungary in 2007 to offset the Vatican’s carbon output, making Vatican City the world’s first “carbon neutral” state.
The next year, solar cells were installed on the roof of the Paul VI audience hall, providing power for a large portion of the Vatican.
It was not announced if Francis had any plans for his new car. In the past, he raffled off a Panda 4×4 he received as a gift in 2014, to raise money for the papal charities office.