Pope Benedict XVI has said he would be happy to use a solar-powered Popemobile when making public appearances. The current Popemobile is gas-powered and is outfitted with bullet-proof windows with an elevated chair for the Pope to sit on as he waves to crowds. For those who don’t know this, Pope Benedict has already demonstrated his interest in solar power by outfitting his personal home in Germany with solar panels.
The Vatican also has employed the use of solar technology with over 2,000 solar panels on the roof of the audience hall and a solar cooling unit for the main cafeteria. They produced a book on their solar projects called “The Energy of the Sun in the Vatican.” The same company that produced their solar power installations may become involved in producing a solar-powered electric vehicle for the Pope.
“This is something we have to discuss with the people who are in charge of the security aspect, but of course this is possible and it would be a very, very huge symbol,” said SolarWorld marketing chief Milan Nitzschke. (Source: Washingtonpost.com) The security issue he was referencing is speed, because the Popemobile needs to be able to be fast enough to take evasive action in a threatening situation. Fortunately electric vehicles can be very fast due to their efficient torque response. So an electric Popemobile charged by solar panels is certainly a good possibility.
Pope Benedict XVI has made a number of remarks in writing about protecting the environment. He said this of sustainable practices: “At the same time we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it. This means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.” (Source: Vatican.va)
The previous Pope, John Paul II, shared a concern for the environment, and was also known for writing about these concerns in his encyclicals. In his 1990 World Day of Peace message he said, “On another level, delicate ecological balances are upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources. It should be pointed out that all of this, even if carried out in the name of progress and well- being is ultimately to mankind’s disadvantage.” (Source: Conservation.catholic.org)
Electric cars and solar panels were available in John Paul II’s day, but they weren’t as robust as today’s technology. Pope Benedict XVI may have the chance to have his public appearance vehicle light the way for others to consider the benefits of using solar power, and moving away from fossil fuels.