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Toyota Brings Its Hydrogen Car to DC

Get ready for the "hydrogen society."
Wells and Wimmer look under the Mirai's hood. Photograph by Emma Foehringer Merchant.

On Wednesday, the future arrived in Washington–or, at least, Toyota’s version of it.

District Department of the Environment chief Tommy Wells held a press conference at DDOE headquarters to introduce the car company’s new Mirai, one of the first hydrogen fuel cell cars expected to reach full market—in a year or two.

Toyota expects to release the new model, whose name means future in Japanese, to a limited number of Southern California residents in the fall. Our area will have to wait to fully experience the future, which, according to the company’s Energy & Environment Manager Bob Wimmer, will be a “hydrogen society.”

One of the biggest concerns about the innovation in fuel cells is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations throughout the United States. Ever ahead-of-the-curve California already has some of this infrastructure, but other areas, including the District, would leave Mirai drivers high and dry after the 300-mile tank ran out of hydrogen. “Recently I’ve talked to one company that’s looking at putting the hydrogen fueling stations in our region,” Wells said. “I know that this very likely will be our future.”

Touring the car along the Northeast is part of Toyota’s three-pronged approach: first introducing the Mirai, then working on infrastructure to support it, and finally gaining patents for its technology that converts hydrogen in to electricity. “The hope is that our work with these service providers will encourage others to invest and to grow that infrastructure into a ‘hydrogen highway’ all the way from the Northeast down to Washington and possibly further. That will take time, that will take investment, and that will take foresight,” Wimmer said.

The Mirai’s only emission is water. After a few days spinning around the District, the cars will be driving the “hydrogen highway” back up the East Coast.

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