Manhattan Beach automaker builds zero-emission popmobile


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It’s a simple sketch of a basic all-electric car, highlighted by designer Henrik Fisker’s signature at the bottom.

What will make this a treasured keepsake is the fact that there was another simple autograph added to the piece of paper, at the top. It comes from Pope Francis.

The signature is nothing less than a papal stamp of approval on the first zero-exhaust and zero-emission vehicle to be part of the Vatican transport fleet. It also represents the story of the genesis of how a world famous automobile visionary based in Manhattan Beach came to seek divine help to create a one-of-a-kind ride for the head of the Catholic Church.

On May 20, a private audience in Rome with Pope Francis was organized for Fisker, CEO and Founder of Fisker Inc., and his wife, Geeta Gupta-Fisker, CFO and COO of the society.

Know the pope’s concerns regarding the impact of climate on future generations – especially those expressed in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si ‘ – Henrik Fisker explained to Angelus why he felt compelled to act.

“Pope Francis often talks about his concern for the environment, so an electric vehicle with no emissions and no tailpipes is an ideal choice for the next papal transport vehicle,” said Fisker.

“Pope Francis expected me to show him some renderings of the vehicle and seemed pleased with what we showed him.”

The meeting took place at least in part thanks to a mutual friend of Fisker and the Pope who suggested it.

Domingo Zapata, a Spanish neo-expressionist artist and fashion designer, has been appointed by Pope Francis to be his ambassador for his charity for artistic education, the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes Foundation. The two first connected in 2018 to help Pope Francis’ idea of ​​creating a work of art to celebrate immigrants.

Zapata, who works in a studio in Hollywood as well as New York and Miami, recently posted models of Fisker cars on his Instagram account and wrote: “It’s great to join the Fisker team. Together we will bring more beauty and purpose to the world. “

Fisker showed Pope Francis more photos of his proposed Ocean four-wheel-drive EV SUV, a $ 37,000-priced vehicle set to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The modified version to the Pope’s specifications is expected to be completed and given to His Holiness by the end of 2022.

More than just an all-electric car, Fisker’s plans include an interior made of a variety of sustainable materials, including carpets made from recycled plastic bottles salvaged from the ocean – hence the vehicle’s name. .

“The initial meeting was conducted through a translator, but he seemed intrigued by the all-electric propulsion and electrified operation of the glass dome,” said Fisker, a 57-year-old Danish native, describing the term used for the bubble extension that will emerge from the roof of the car so that the Pope can stand and be seen while driving through the crowd.

This is not the first time that Fisker’s designs have appeared on the world stage. He started his career at BMW in Munich and made his mark on the cultural map by designing a Z8 roadster that Pierce Brosnan, as James Bond, drove in the 1999 film “The World Is Not Enough”.

“His feelings for James Bond were unfortunately not revealed” to the public in Rome, hastened to add Fisker.

Several environmentally friendly vehicles for the use of the Pope have recently been produced by Toyota (a hydrogen fuel cell Mirai), Renault (an electric van) and Mercedes-Benz (a hybrid). Pope Francis is said to be particularly fond of modest vehicles such as the Ford Focus or small economy cars produced by Fiat or Jeep.

Over the years, bespoke vehicles are often given to popes for their public appearances, more commonly referred to as “popemobiles”. Mercedes-Benz, which has supplied the Pope with vehicles since 1930, issued a statement when it gave Pope John Paul II an M-Class Mercedes-Benz in 2002, asking the media to stop using the term “daddy -mobile “because the pontiff declared that it was” not up to the dignity and purpose of these automobiles “.

Fisker says he undertook the project well aware of the teachings of Laudato si ‘, in which the Pope called for “swift and unified global action” to address man-made environmental degradation and climate change. Francis argued that the environmental crisis can ultimately only be resolved if our immense technological developments are accompanied by a “development of human responsibility, values ​​and conscience”.

When asked if he could sense that the employees of Fisker Inc., whether Catholic or not, might have some idea of ​​the price and a connection to the Pope because of this new relationship, Fisker replied: “We are proud of any stakeholder willing to trust us to build a beautifully designed vehicle for them, regardless of their religion. We are all humbled and honored to build a vehicle for Pope Francis, especially given his concerns for the environment. “

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