On this day: Pedal-powered popemobile for the people’s pontiff

Pedal-powered Popemobile

Having established a reputation as a Pope who takes the bus, Pope Francis had an opportunity on this day in 2013 to cement his image as the people’s pontiff when he was offered the world’s first pedal-powered Popemobile.

The entirely carbon-neutral, pedal-powered Popemobile was commissioned by us here at the ETA after the previous pontiff, Pope Benedict, expressed his desire for a green, all-electric vehicle.

With a price tag of £175,000, the pedal-powered Popemobile may cost only half the amount of the Pontiff’s current car, but it boasts just as impressive a specification. And in contrast to the current 5-litre V8 petrol-engined Popemobile, the pedal-powered version is silent and has zero emissions.

Pedal-powered Popemobile specifications

• 8mm bullet-proof Plexiglass windows
• Solar panels on roof power air conditioning and trickle charge main battery
• Operational speed 6mph with emergency power train boost (top speed 38mph)
• Low-voltage spotlights in floor and roof compartment to illuminate His Holiness
• Blast-proof body panels constructed from lightweight titanium and ceramic composite
• Built-in oxygen supply

infographic of pedal-powered popemobile

Cycling is the great leveller – a means of transport as serene as it is practical and an entirely appropriate way for a Pope to travel. The green-credentials of the vehicle dovetail perfectly with Pope Francis’s image as the people’s pontiff

The pedal-powered Popemobile has an operating speed no different from the pontiff’s current Mercedes; 6mph allows crowds the best opportunity of catching a glimpse of His Holiness. In an emergency, a powerful 1.5kW electric motor whisks the pedal-powered Popemobile away from trouble at almost 40mph.

Previous gas-guzzling Popemobiles were based on a Mercedes ML430 V8, GMS Sierra 6.0 V8, Mercedes G-Glass 5-litre V8, Leyland Motors 24-ton lorry and a Mercedes 600 Pullman Landaulet 6.3 V8 among others.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. And 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurancebreakdown cover  and home insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.


ETA cycle insurance

Pop-up protection for the populace

Not every cyclist enjoys the protection of the Swiss Guard. Poor driving standards mean every cyclist could do with eyes in the back of their head so on this day in 2017 we launched iONu – an inflatable mask that riders wear on the back of their heads to give approaching drivers the impression they are being watched.


The ETA was inspired to build the iONu after asking 800 cyclists to name their least favourite aspect of life on two wheels. 52 per cent of respondents cited ‘cars and lorries passing too close’ as their number one complaint.

I have my iONu – but how does it work?

Establishing good eye contact with other road users is a fundamental aspect of staying safe – whatever the mode of transport. However, the iONu inflatable mask draws on a simple technique first tested 30 years ago in India. Tigers almost always attack from the rear, so the thinking is that a mask worn on the back of the head confuses the tigers enough to prevent attacks. The Indian government issued groups of workers with masks after the idea was shown to have worked.

Furthermore, the psychology behind iONu is supported by a project which demonstrated that bicycle theft can be significantly reduced by placing large photos of staring eyes above bike racks.

pair of eyes

The two-year experiment conducted by Newcastle University on campus grounds reduced theft by 62 per cent. Furthermore, bike theft in those areas without the posters rose by a similar amount, suggesting the crime had been displaced to other locations rather than eliminated.

In a previous study in 2006, the same scientists looked at the impact of images of eyes on contributions to an honesty box in a tea room. They found that people put nearly three times more money in the box when there were eyes compared with flowers. Then in 2010 they found people were more likely to clean away their tray after a meal when there were eyes watching them.

The iONu mask went on sale on 1 April 2017 for £49.95.

ETA cycle insurance

ETA cycle insurance offers a sympathetic policy on storage. For example, as long as a shed door is locked the bicycles stored within do not require any further security. In addition, the policy covers stolen quick-release components and for added peace of mind, claims are handled in-house. Furthermore, bikes are never devalued, no matter their age. Hardly surprising that The Good Shopping Guide votes us Britain’s most ethical provider.

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