Hydro-WHEN Power


People are saying that the Toyota Mirai is going to give Tesla a run for its money. I’d love to believe that. Toyotas are notoriously affordable in comparison to the Model S, over which I have spent many a long drive salivating. However, much as I’d love to trade in my gas guzzler for a hydrogen-powered futuremobile right now, my guess is that I’ll need to wait maybe twenty years for Toyota’s gamble to pan out.

First of all, I have a lot of respect for Toyota as a company. The last car I owned had a Toyota engine and when I got rid of it at 150,000 miles, it was still capable of making a 400-mile trip as long as you were willing to dump two quarts of oil into it at regular intervals. From the perspective of the absolute non-businessperson writing this blog post, their business strategies seem pretty well thought-out. If it were any other company inventing a completely new power source for automobiles, I’d be leery. But toyota’s good name has me hopefully optimistic.

That said, I see some problems for them on the horizon.

First of all, I think they’re going to have a hell of a time if they want to sell this thing in the U.S. Building an infrastructure won’t necessarily be a practical issue – Tesla’s been there and as a company, their market base is far smaller than Toyota’s. (At least Toyota has something other than luxury cars in production.) But an energy source that isn’t gas? In a country that freaking loves gas? I anticipate a veritable fiesta of regulation funded by fossil fuel interests. I have a feeling that regulating the cars themselves is going to be hard, especially since there’ll be a spike of interest. Wealthy idealists and collectors might be willing enough to get their hands on a Mirai that they’re willing to jump through a few hoops and hand out a little extra cash. But regulating the hydrogen filling stations – ay, there’s the rub. There are all kinds of weak points there, from ensuring hydrogen quality to making sure the damn thing doesn’t blow up. Fighting that will cost a nice chunk of change.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m on board with a greener car. I happen to be aware that gasoline blows up too. But, you know, “the CHILLING DANGERS of HYDROGEN BOMB CARS” is something that can be media-spun pretty easily. My guess is that regulation will keep fuel cell cars outside of your average commuter’s budget for a while yet, and by the time the mainland U.S. sees them in significant supply, there may be better options out there.

Nevertheless, it’s a step toward the realization of my first video game car come true. (Minus the mutants and the radioactivity, of course.)


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