Toyota designed the vehicle to mark the pope's 2019 visit to Japan.
The Japanese bishops’ conference has gifted Pope Francis a new “Popemobile”: a hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai, specially designed for his travels, reported the Italian magazine Virgilio Motori on October 9. This new vehicle will emit very little greenhouse gas; the new Popemobile was designed last November by the Japanese brand Toyota on the occasion of the pope’s trip to Japan.
Delivered on October 7, the car, white like its predecessors, is 16.7 feet long and 8.9 feet high. Mirai—a word that means “future” in Japanese—is the first hydrogen-powered sedan to be mass-produced since 2014. It’s a car with advanced ecological virtues: its fuel cell system runs on hydrogen and can travel about 500 km (310 miles) on a full tank. The only drawback: the only functional hydrogen refueling station is in Bolzano, Italy, on the Austrian border.
Although the first Popemobile dates back to Pius X, when in 1909 the Archbishop of New York presented him with an Itala 20/30, it was not really used until the pontificate of Pius XI.
After the attempted assassination attempt on John Paul II on May 13, 1981, many security measures were adopted to protect the pope, forcing a revision of the concept of the Popemobile. The pope began habitually to use an armored car, with a rear cabin made of bullet-proof glass.
While the Vatican garages underwent no significant changes under Benedict XVI, they were transformed by Pope Francis from the first days of his pontificate.
In fact, the Argentinean pontiff expressed his desire not to use the traditional sedans, which he replaced with a more modest model: the Ford Focus. Until then, he used a Mercedes (Torpedo Mercedes-Benz G 500), a line historically favored by the popes. However, he was recently seen driving to Assisi in a Volkswagen Golf.