EV startup Fisker Inc. says it will make the first all-electric popemobile, using a modified version of its forthcoming Ocean SUV. Automotive designer Henrik Fisker and Geeta Gupta-Fisker (his wife and Fisker Inc. co-founder) presented Pope Francis with images of the proposed design during a meeting at the Vatican on Thursday.
Those images show a white Ocean SUV with a glass cupola on top that would let the pope greet the public. The company says it will deliver the vehicle sometime next year. (The regular version of the Ocean SUV is supposed to launch near the end of 2022.)
Traditionally, the official popemobiles are made by Mercedes-Benz and have to be properly armored and outfitted with bulletproof glass. It’s not clear exactly how the Vatican would use Fisker Inc.’s electric SUV; messages to the Holy See’s press office were not immediately returned.
The Vatican has used electric and hybrid vehicles before
Still, the pope rides in all sorts of modified vehicles during his travels and has even used electric zero-emissions cars. The Vatican was gifted a Renault Kangoo electric van in 2012, but they were used for less official transport, like tooling around the Papal Palace in summer. Pope Francis was driven around in a hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai in Japan in 2019. Mercedes-Benz has even made hybrid popemobiles for his holiness.
However the Vatican decides to use the vehicle, here are some very funny photoshopped images of Pope Francis riding in the modified Ocean provided by Fisker Inc., including one where it looks like the holy father is falling over (perhaps thanks to the electric SUV’s instant torque?):
Henrik Fisker is known for designing Aston Martins, the BMW Z8, and for a brief stint at Tesla during some of its earliest years. He left Tesla to start a company called Fisker Automotive, where he designed a hybrid sports car called Karma. But the company ran into a lot of trouble with the batteries that powered the car, and it ultimately went bankrupt.
He founded Fisker Inc. in 2016 and was originally giving the idea of a sports car another go — though all-electric this time around. Fisker has since pivoted his new startup away from that idea and toward far more affordable and supposedly sustainable electric SUVs. The company recently went public in a SPAC merger and raised nearly $1 billion, and it has struck a deal with Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to build an even smaller more affordable “personal electric vehicle.”
“I got inspired reading that Pope Francis is very considerate about the environment and the impact of climate change for future generations,” Fisker said in a statement. “The interior of the Fisker Ocean papal transport will contain a variety of sustainable materials, including carpets made from recycled plastic bottles from the ocean.”