“California is the Cradle of Hydrogen”

Autoblog.com reports that Mirai sales have topped 3,000. It’s true: in Southern California, I see Mirais on the freeway more often than I did just a few months ago.

Read more: https://www.autoblog.com/2018/01/23/toyota-mirai-fuel-cell-sales-california/ AND http://toyotanews.pressroom.toyota.com/releases/toyota%2Bsurpasses%2B3000%2Bmirai%2Bhydrogen%2Bfuel%2Bcell%2Bvehicle%2Bsales%2Bin%2Bcalifornia.htm

 

WIRED Magazine UK Article About Mirai

HEADLINE: Toyota wants to change the world with Mirai, its new hydrogen car

The article poses an interesting question: Will (or can?) the Mirai replicate the success of the Prius?

It’s sort of hard to imagine a car-buying landscape in which hydrogen vehicles take any significant portion of the market share. Perhaps even more daunting to imagine is a reliable network of fueling stations, though there are companies looking to change this (True Zero, for example–see my post about refueling at one of their stations in South Pasadena). Currently, you not only have to locate a fueling station, of which there are only a few dozen, but also be sure that the pump is online and available. Personally, I’ve encountered no issues, though there are reports from other owners about long lines (three to five people ahead of you at a single pump), pumps going offline sporadically, and stations running out of fuel.

These “snafus” recall the “hybrid panic” of ten or fifteen years ago, when consumers worried about the cost of replacing really expensive batteries and paying a premium for an eco-friendly car, as neither costs could offset the amount saved on gas. Today, however, these issues are moot. Hybrids, electric, and PEVs are everywhere; you see Priuses (Pruisi?) and Insights so beat up and old that you feel nostalgic for when they were released (of course forgetting about all those concerns of yesteryear).

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The first Honda Insight, c. December 1999 (Source: Edmunds.com)
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The first Prius (Source: autoguide.com) 

Looking back, didn’t the purpose of the hybrid car extend far beyond economic concerns? The greater message of these first hybrids was a choice for drives everywhere: Do your part to use less gasoline. Today, as the WIRED article says, “Toyota “produces 430,000 cars a year. From 6.30am to 1am, it can turn out a Prius every minute.”

The Mirai represents the same choice today. Here is an emergent technology. There will be issues, no doubt, and there will be certain aspects of leaseeship or ownership that might not initially make the most sense. But the Mirai offers drivers another choice: Drive a car that reminds you of every other nice car you’ve ever driven, except it runs on an emissionless fuel that will only continue to be produced with renewable energy.

Second Fueling – South Pasadena ARCO / True Zero Station

Location: South Pasadena ARCO, 1200 Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena, CA 91030

True Zero Hydrogen Station

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This refueling station is conveniently located at an ARCO station. Unlike the Diamond Bar station, which is located on government property, refueling at this True Zero pump allows you to use a bathroom, buy beverages/snacks, easily fill your tires, and so on; in other words, enjoy the convenience of a traditional gas station. You’re also refueling with plenty of other people around, whereas the Diamond Bar station is scantly lit at night and certainly not monitored by a living being.

Using this station was easy and quick. The pump is located by the garage and beside (but separate from) traditional gas pumps. Curious onlookers watch, as you’re sort of on display.

In the event of rain there would be no cover here, though, so that could be a mild disaster.

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An infographic attached to the pump provided ample thought about why one would even drive a Mirai and search out this particular ARCO, for example, among the hundreds (thousands?) of others.

More than anything, driving a Mirai is an environmental choice. 33.6% of hydrogen fuel already comes from renewable sources, compared to 27.5% of electricity for an EV in California. Both numbers can—and will—increase. Both should increase as more consumers adopt the technology. And both types of vehicles produce zero emissions. On a smoggy day in Southern California, I’ve really come to appreciate what it means to be driving but not polluting the air

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More than being a “cool car,” the Mirai represents a choice to move toward a renewable future. True Zero, the supplier of hydrogen fuel at this station (and many others), aims to utilize “100% renewable hydrogen in 5 years.”
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Total cost, covered by Toyota

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Day 1 – Leasing / Drive Home

Why Mirai?

On December 8, 2017 I leased a 2017 Toyota Mirai. I traded in my 2016 Buick Encore, which was a fine car that averaged 27MPG on the highway. With a roundtrip commute of ±100 miles I had been spending a sizable fortune on gas. Every $45 fill-up funneled my income to the oil hegemony and caused my “inexpensive” monthly lease payment inflate to within the range of a far more luxurious vehicle. So naturally I wanted to escape both the costly and frequent fill-ups and the illusion of a cheap SUV/crossover.

This is where Toyota’s Mirai lease incentives provided me a substantial reward for becoming a “trailblazer” and driving a hydrogen fuel cell car while there remains a dearth of fueling station infrastructure. The car comes with $15,000 of complimentary fuel preloaded onto a Mirai-branded Mastercard. All you have to do is use this card at any fueling station and the fuel is “free.” Luckily there are several stations that are easily accessible to me: Diamond Bar, UCI, and Anaheim, with Ontario coming online soon.

The car’s fuel cell technology uses hydrogen and outside air that enters through the grill to create the energy necessary to power the car. It then drives like an electric car, with a one-gear sensation, slight whine, and rather response acceleration. Its sole emission is water.

More thoughts about the “drive” in future posts!

First Drive

On my drive home from Tustin Toyota to Claremont, several drivers honked/waved at me. A few offered thumbs up. Some looked on without emotion, perhaps caused by the traffic and not me or the car.

While sitting in gridlocked traffic on the 241/91 interchange about halfway home (notoriously sluggish and perhaps not improving anytime soon), a man driving a Toyota Tundra honked and asked me to roll down my window.

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Nice looking truck, though the MPG…

“No gas, right?” he asked. “This is the car that uses no gas?”

I nodded and shouted across my lane that the Mirai uses only hydrogen fuel.

“No gas!” he said again. “I love it!” He then gestured toward the gridlock with his hand, I guess implying that the 91’s endless congestion of diesel trucks and cars and pickups and SUVs are all burning fossil fuels and that we’re all breathing those fumes.

My Mirai

The specifics of my model are:

Color: Nautical Blue Metallic

Interior: Warm White

Our first day out to the park…

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Embroidered logo featured on the floor mats and trunk

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LED bulbs that offer a fine white shine

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Parking assist that warns with loud beeping when you’re near any object (even tree branches in my driveway)
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H2Only

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Manual water release, though the car purges automatically at frequent intervals

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Special thanks to Andy and Ryan at Tustin Toyota, both of whom are also Mirai drivers, and who perhaps one day I’ll see at a fueling station.