My new Toyota Mirai

On Thursday (5/19/16) I leased a Mirai from Toyota Sunnyvale (nearest Mirai dealer to my Palo Alto home).

Why Mirai?

1. ICEs emit many kinds of carcinogens into my neighborhood, see the book The Harmful Effects of Vehicle Exhaust described at http://www.ehhi.org/reports/exhaust/summary.shtml. Understandably this is not something either the auto industry or the oil industry is motivated to highlight as a beneficial feature of ICEs, and the consumer faced with the alternatives of public transport, a bicycle, or (gasp) a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is naturally in denial about it. Maybe hydrogen producers emit carcinogens, but not into my neighborhood AFAIK.

2. In 52 years of car ownership, including two new Mercedes, two second hand Mercedes, and a fleet of other vehicles from the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, and the US, it’s the first car I’ve ever owned that didn’t/won’t eventually drip oil.

3. Refueling time of 60 seconds per kg. That’s 4 minutes when your remaining range is 60 miles. It probably could refuel a fair bit faster in warm weather, this slow rate avoids the risk of icing up the nozzle in cold weather. When full (70 MPa = 700 atmospheres) it gives the remaining range as 342 miles, perhaps because it hadn’t yet figured out that I have a lead right foot. I’ve only had time for one refuel so far, I’ll keep an eye on it.

4. 300-340 mile range, adequate for me. I drive the 90 miles (in 90 minutes) from Stanford to the Stanford Hopkins Marine Station once a fortnight. Even though the nearest hydrogen stations to the latter are Campbell (66 miles to the north) and Coalinga (132 miles to the south, or 151 via I-5), there are currently two stations each within a mile of my normal route. While I wouldn’t normally do three round trips back to back, each of three hours (540 miles), I do have that option with this car—even with the longest-range Tesla I’d have to recharge at least twice on the way, however long that takes. For just the 90 miles, any BEV less than a Tesla may well have to recharge en route. And even with stations only just starting to come online in the last few months, already I could commute between Reno and Tijuana with stops for “gas” at just Sacramento, Coalinga, and LA. And if you want to take a 7-day vacation each year to places out of range of hydrogen stations Toyota kindly lends you a used Land Cruiser or whatever your trip needs (but you have to pay for the gas then, sigh).

5. Comfort of a loaded Lexus in a Camry form factor (but only four seats sadly). Everything in driver assistance short of keeping you in your lane if you fall asleep (it buzzes but that might not awaken you). Fully autonomous is still years away.

6. The price is right: including CA tax ($44/mo) plus optional GAP insurance and excess-wear-and-tear insurance ($47/mo), the driveaway payment after the $5k CA rebate is $500 (which I’d paid two months earlier as a deposit), the monthly is $499 + $44 + $47 = $590, and if after returning it (almost certainly) we get a different brand they ding us for $350 more. Fuel and service are free, but our insurer wants $1200/year for comprehensive coverage on top of that. Plus parking meters and toll roads.

7. Distinctive styling. I’m ok with it, and my Italian neighbors think it looks great compared to their conservative Highlander hybrid, which either reflects modern Italian styling tastes or they root for Darth Vader when they take their kids to see Star Wars movies. (Surprised George Lucas hasn’t already sued Toyota for infringing his stormtrooper design patent, but maybe he plans to get one—there’s a station near him in Mill Valley.) Anyway it’s only for three years, I’ll check out what Mercedes et al have on offer when the time comes.

8. Something about CO2 (insert belief here—infer mine from the 7.5 kW solar PV on my roof since 2008).

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