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The Toyota Mirai Is a Hit With Pope Francis, If Nobody Else

As the patriarch of the Catholic church, Pope Francis travels thousands of miles per year to maintain and spread his faith. Many of those miles he travels in the official car of Catholicism, the Popemobile—a role which many vehicles have served throughout the years. Depending on where Pope Francis travels, his cars can be Ford Focuses, Fiat 500Ls, or even a Nissan Frontier, and last Wednesday, two odd new members joined the motor pool of the Holy See: Toyota Mirais.

Named after the Japanese word for “future,” the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirais have been appropriately modified for duty as Popemobiles. In place of their second row and trunk is an elevated platform, with railings so Pope Francis can wave to the thousands of followers who line the parade routes he travels, and a seat for when he needs a bit of rest. Unlike the Popemobiles of Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, who encased himself in bulletproof glass, Francis rides in the open air. In 2014, not long after his papacy began, he decided against the extra layer of protection, saying, “at my age, I don’t have much to lose.”

At a Vatican ceremony attended by representatives of the Catholic Church, the Japanese government and Toyota, Pope Francis greeted the pair of Mirais as old friends, having first ridden in them during a visit to Japan last November. Toyota presumably supplied Francis with a pair of FCEVs rather than a one-off convertible Century limousine due to the holy man’s feelings regarding climate change, which he summarized in the 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, or Praise Be to You.

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