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).
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.