It’s hydrogen-powered: Toyota Mirai
Trailblazers, early adapters, environmentalists, online shoppers, super cool car enthusiasts, tree huggers, and chemistry class geeks can all rejoice. The day of the turning point for cars is here. As of right now, you–a normal consumer–can order a hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai online. We take the online eligibility test for you.
By Kimberly Phipps
It runs on what?
What is a Mirai? It has taken nearly a century to get here and decades to develop. It’s a car that runs on the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen, instead of fossil fuel. It leaves only water vapor in its wake. It sounds like science fiction, but like many things that would have sounded like crazy talk in the 1990’s (a tiny computer that’s also a phone and plays any song you want, whenever you want? Whaaat?) is not only here, but you can buy it on the internet. Today.
Toyota isn’t the first car maker to use hydrogen fuel cells for power—and far from the only one. Engineers from BMW and Mercedes, Hyundai and GMC, just to name a few, have fuel cell vehicles in production and use. Plus, fuel cells themselves have been used for decades to provide transportation power. Fuel cells have powered trains and busses in Europe and Japan, and here in the US they have even powered several space trips for NASA rockets. The water vapor, which is the only emission by-product of the hydrogen fuel cells, provided a source of clean drinking water for the astronauts. How’s that for clean car emissions?
So what’s so special about the Toyota Mirai? It’s the first of its kind that a regular consumer (no astronaut training required!) can place an order for right here and now. There’s a special website where potential Toyota Mirai drivers can go to sign up for the country’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Are you ready? What are you waiting for? Let’s go!
Hold on there, sister!
Ok, it’s not quite as easy as clicking a button and having the badass-looking Mirai show up at your door tonight, ready for action. Like many hot new things in high demand, it requires a little work on your part. Before they let you take one of their new babies home, Toyota’s going to have to know a little bit about you first. And that’s a good thing. This car is different, and special. It’s not for everyone. Toyota, like any concerned parent, wants to make sure that you, the driver, are ready to take on the role of a Mirai owner, and also that the Mirai will make you a happy driver as well. It’s one thing to stand in line overnight for the next release of the iPhone, or put your name on the six month waiting list for the next Birken bag, but this this is a whole new mode of transportation.
Like a dating website for drivers
More people than ever are looking for potential mates and dates with online matching. Toyota is taking the same approach for finding good matches for the Mirai. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes, and gives you an idea of what the challenges and benefits are of driving this new kind of car.
One of the first questions is interesting—Toyota is asking to see, it seems, how comfortable you are with alternative technology vehicles. We have no idea if the answer gives you more or less desirability with the Mirai parents, er, we mean people, but the information seems to be important to them.
Are you geographically desirable?
Ever met someone online that you really liked, but they live so far away that you know you’ll never actually get together? So here’s a bit of a dealbreaker, for a lot of folks: at this stage of the game, you pretty much have to be a Californian in order to get one of these. No offense to the other 49 perfectly wonderful states, but at this moment, California is the state that has enough of the hydrogen fuel stations available to make the Toyota Mirai a viable option for a driver. The goal is to go nationwide, of course, and there are plans and infrastructure being built for that to happen. But someone has to be the first test subject, and those people are the residents of California—specifically those who live in the general areas of the larger cities.
How far are you willing to go?
So, exactly what are your intentions with this car? Are you going to be an around the block commuter, or a long distance, country-crossing driver? This may be a question to better determine if you are a better candidate to buy or lease the Mirai. Also, it’s a good time to mention that one of the benefits of a hydrogen-powered car as opposed to an all-electric car is that a hydrogen fill-up will go approximately 350 miles, about the same as a normal gas powered car. With some planning, this allows drivers who do tend to pack on the miles a better comfort zone on long trips, without the fear of being stranded somewhere if the charge runs out.
The Esaay questions
Wait, what? No one said anything about essay questions on this test! Well, it doesn’t have to be long or poetic, but Toyota is serious about making sure that you and the Mirai are ready for each other. If you have ever consented to answer the long form questionarres for the more “serious” dating sites, like the one who promotes all the marriages they have spawned as opposed to the sites that are unabashedly about hooking up, then this will not be unfamiliar territory. Even to rescue a dog, the screeners make sure to ask you lots of questions to determine if you are going to provide a good home for little Rover. Asking the right questions helps to increase the odds that you’ll be a good match for your potential date, provide the best home for a dog, or be a great match for the Toyota Mirai.
Finally! We certainly don’t judge other people by the color of their skin, but cars? That’s another deal entirely. Whether we like the stereotype or not, a car’s color ranks very high up in importance with women buyers when choosing a car. (Apparently, they’ve seen our shoe closets. Same pair of shoes, in three different colors? Of course!) The Toyota Mirai’s exterior has four color choices at present–blue, black, silver, and white. The car is custom assembled in Japan just for you, so pick whichever color you really want—you don’t just have to pick the one available in the lot!
Well, so much for instant gratification. I learned that if I am eligible, the estimated earliest I could get a Mirai would be May of 2016. From the information available on the website, I’m guessing this factor is determined by two things: availability of the car, AND the estimated completion date of the hydrogen fuel stations closest to me. The website makes it clear that this is not a first-ordered, first to take delivery kind of situation. They website features an interactive map that shows you exactly where the fueling stations are, which are operational at the moment, and which are slated to be open in 2016. It also shows you where on thre map your home and work are, so that you can know exactly what your routes to the nearest stations would be. As it turns out, the two hydrogen stations closest to my home and work will not be completed until 2016, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to get the car before these are up and running. Well, bummer. But depending on where you live, you may be able to get a Mirai as early as October of this year! (And yes, you will be making all of us here at Vroomgirls quite jealous.)
Your online community
A car this advanced doesn’t have just your normcore, run-of-the-mill target audience. The drivers bold enough to want to drive the Mirai are likely interested in technology, the environment, and all that goes along with those things. There will be tons of questions about the practical aspects, such as the safety of hydrogen, and the far-reaching social and political implications. Toyota has established a great modern online forum in order to get any of your questions answered, from both the experts and through crowdsourcing. You can see what others are saying and get your own voice heard. So even if you’re not ready to get into a committed relationship with the Toyota Mirai, this is a great place to explore, imagine what is possible, and find out all the facts.