Pope Benedict XVI is to enhance his green credentials by taking delivery of a hybrid Popemobile that will allow the pontiff to drive for miles without emitting any emissions.
Under development at Mercedes-Benz, the new vehicle, will come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that should provide enough power to keep the car ticking over for 16 miles at cruising speeds low enough for the pontiff to seen by the faithful, while a petrol engine takes over at higher speeds.
The pope, according to the German business paper Wirtschaftswoche, had wanted an all-electric car but this idea was scrapped because a battery may have lacked the power and speed needed to shift the five-ton vehicle in an emergency situation. :(
Although Wirtschaftswoche cited a Mercedes' source that claimed the vehicle, based on a M-class SUV, was being developed "on behalf of customers in the Vatican" the German auto-giant has remained tight-lipped about the project.
Rob Halloway, public relations manager for Mercedes Benz cars, said that "due to confidentiality we cannot comment on any Papal vehicle like this".
It had been hoped the new Popemobile would be ready for Pope Benedict's visit to his homeland at the end of September but Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the car would not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest.