California street journey in Toyota Mirai fraught with gasoline station tensions


So lastly, after the L.A. auto present and Automotive Information Congress, I used to be getting behind the wheel. However now I used to be all pissed off that my delays had been going to make the drive to see my dad close to Palm Springs longer and shorten our temporary go to. Sigh.

So I turned on the air conditioner, snuggled my telephone onto the inductive charger and customarily tried to get snug with the format.

I used to be solely about 10 miles down the street after I realized that I had 130 miles to go, after which about the identical distance to get again to Los Angeles Worldwide Airport … however solely 265 miles of estimated vary within the tank.


However I took a breath and remembered: I had been right here earlier than.

A couple of years in the past, I acquired to borrow the earlier model of the Mirai. And the night time earlier than I acquired it, I used to be fortunate sufficient to see Jim Press, the legendary former Toyota gross sales govt, at an Automotive Information occasion, and I went to inform him how excited I used to be to drive it.

He advised me he had one himself, that it was nice, however it’s essential plan forward and be ready for issues on the pump.

Like what?

Lack of gasoline. Damaged pumps. Frozen nozzles.


The unreliability of fueling stations has been the bane of hydrogen automobiles. That is what Craig Scott, who helps handle Toyota’s hydrogen-powered heavy-truck venture on the ports of Lengthy Seashore and Los Angeles, advised me in a panel dialogue on the Automotive Information Congress, the morning earlier than I took off on this newest journey.

Gasoline and diesel are bodily less complicated to ship than hydrogen gasoline at 700 instances atmospheric stress, stated Tom Mourmouras, Scott’s counterpart from Shell, who famous that these fuels have greater than a 100-year head begin on hydrogen pumps for automobiles.

That benefit provides up in actual property in addition to know-how.

“There are one thing like 8,000 gasoline stations in California,” Scott stated. “Maybe we do not want that many hydrogen stations, however you understand, definitely rising it by an order of magnitude from the place we’re right now can be a major assist.”

Little question.

That first journey, a couple of years in the past, I discovered a hydrogen station in Riverside — about midway to Palm Springs. I figured, if it wasn’t open or wasn’t working, I might take the Mirai to a Hertz lot and hire a automobile to drive for the remainder of the weekend.

Because it occurred, the place was open and functioning and I used to be shortly on my approach with simply sufficient gasoline to get to La Quinta and again. (On the best way again, the nozzle did get caught within the tank, however a useful man who was bored with ready helped me crack it free.)

However this journey was completely different. As I crawled down the freeway, I checked a number of web sites, apps and social media: The Riverside station was closed.

It was getting severe: I used to be heading into the desert with a naked minimal of gasoline.

I instantly turned off the air conditioner. The climate was delicate so I might do with out it.

I seemed on the telephone and paused: I used to be low on battery and feared I could not afford a flawed flip that may add 20 miles to my route. However I knew I used to be additionally including to the drain on the battery and therefore the hydrogen provide.


I turned off the wi-fi charger, reached round for my laptop computer and linked it to the telephone, reallocating the electrons to enhance my odds.

Which isn’t to say that I am an excellent tactician: We have all needed to be taught quite a bit within the twenty first century.

Once I began masking autos in 1997, Toyota and Honda had been introducing a brand new sort of automobile referred to as a hybrid that was powered by each gasoline and electrical energy. It was a steppingstone, Toyota sources stated, to electrical automobiles — finally, to one thing referred to as a “gasoline cell,” powered by hydrogen and emitting nothing greater than water vapor.

Final month, Toyota revealed the fifth technology of the Prius. This 12 months, EVs’ share has topped 5 p.c — small however doubling, with many extra fashions heading to the market.

Hydrogen, too, could also be seeing extra entries. Honda final week stated it plans to make a gasoline cell model of the CR-V within the U.S.

Which is all a beautiful historical past lesson … till you end up entrusted with another person’s $50,000 automobile and questioning what you may do if you cannot correctly return it.

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