2016 Toyota Mirai: Station Location Situation
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on August 26, 2016
In response to my last post, a commenter pointed out our 2016 Toyota Mirai lives in a bubble. That's absolutely true. The state of California is pushing hard for hydrogen development, so that's where the main action is.
The effort is being shaped by the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), an organization that describes itself as "a collaboration of auto manufacturers, energy companies, fuel cell technology companies and government agencies." Their plan: develop and commercialize the technology with the goal of making it financially viable at some point down the road.
To do that it is necessary to have cars on the road and stations to refuel them. Many lessons must be learned. Everyone needs to see that it really can work. This has been going on in the background for some years with CaFCP member fleet vehicles and private pumps.
The Mirai and those that will soon follow represent the beginning of the next phase: private customer cars and public refueling stations.
The public refueling stations we've been using to refuel our Mirai are among the green pins shown on these maps. The yellow ones are "coming soon" locations that are slated to open between now and next summer.
So the Mirai currently lives in two bubbles, one centered around Los Angeles and Orange counties and another around the San Francisco Bay area. Depending on how you count and where you draw the lines, the 2010 census says those areas contain 20.5 million people. If Mirailand were a country it would rank 58 out of 234 in terms of population.
And that population will soon grow. The northeast is next. Early 2017 marks the start of a plan to construct 12 stations across five states: New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
I'm reminded of the Tesla Supercharger network. When we first got our Model S there were maybe six of them, and we were all excited about the prospect of driving to Lake Tahoe. I was able to drive it to Oregon the following Christmas, and six months after that Kurt and I drove our Model S cross-country to New York and back. Today most anyone in the US can drive their Tesla just about anywhere, including the Florida Keys.
Electricity has the advantage of being everywhere. Find a location, do a deal, pull some permits, hire an electrician and you're off and running.
But hydrogen has to be produced elsewhere trucked in. Come to think of it, so does gasoline. The difference is down to the cost and well-to-wheels cleanliness of making the fuel. Consumer demand and economies of scale will move those efforts forward, so wheels on the ground is what it's going to take to get this bubble to expand to the point where it envelops the entire continent.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,226 miles