If you live in Columbia, buying the new Toyota hydrogen car could actually make sense

Something jumped out at me in this story in The Washington Post about Toyota’s new hydrogen-powered car, the Mirai (the name comes from the Japanese word for “future.”)

Along with all the gee-whiz stuff, such as the 300-mile range and the fact that it takes only five minutes to refuel (versus all night for other electrics), there were some caveats — and that’s where I found the good news for South Carolinians who’d be willing to pony up the 50 Gs for one of these things:

The Mirai’s sole fuel source is hydrogen, which you can get in only a dozen fueling stations across the country: 10 in California, one in Connecticut and one in South Carolina. More are in development, but there’s still no way this will be a road-trip car anytime soon.

And, last time I looked, that one was in Columbia.

No, wait… there were two in South Carolina, weren’t there? One was around Aiken, I believe. So maybe one closed. I hope that wasn’t the one in Columbia…

50 thoughts on “If you live in Columbia, buying the new Toyota hydrogen car could actually make sense

  1. Doug Ross

    The hydrogen economy that was to be the driving force behind Innovista is JUST about ready to take off! Why if you live within a few miles of downtown Columbia and don’t intend to drive any further than 150 miles away, you’re all set to by a car that costs 3 times as much as a Kia Soul.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      See, Doug’s being sarcastic, but he’s actually giving reasons why this is a positive development.

      This would be your South Carolina car. If you want to go on long road trips, drive something else. (In my family, for years we’ve rented a car when we take long trips anyway.) But a 300-mile range will take you just about anywhere in SC and back. Plan ahead.

      And of course, you don’t compare this to a Kia Soul. Or to a Yugo. You compare it to a Tesla, because that’s what it’s competing with — and it’s cheaper, and refuels faster. The only advantage the more conventional electric car has is that there are a lot more places to charge them — which remains a huge advantage.

      But not QUITE as much of an advantage if you live in California, or in Columbia (if the fueling station here is still open — I’ve made a couple of calls and haven’t been able to confirm it yet).

      1. Doug Ross

        That’s how you sell it now after it failed. That’s not the way it was sold when all the millions were being spent on empty buildings. The whole concept of Innovista was supposed to be about technology and INNOvation. All it has turned into is a bunch of student apartments and restaurants to serve those students.

        Are there ANY high tech jobs that came out of that boondoggle?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          At least one of the Innovista buildings is occupied by business. I don’t remember which–it was two of them.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      If you’re going to drive an a-hole luxury car, a Tesla is certainly the least offensive. It got the highest ever rating from Consumer Reports, too.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Tesla’s are great cars if one doesn’t travel over 200 miles per day – and habitually return to one’s own electrically upgraded garage each evening.

        So, Kathryn, is one an a-hole only for driving a nice car, or does simply admiring one tip a person into that descriptor? BTW – lot’s of people drive nice cars because they have to project that image which you appear to recoil from.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          It were but a jest, but I believe certain vehicles suggest one is a feminine hygiene product: Dually trucks with lots of chrome and nary a blemish, Escalades, Camaros, Corvettes (non-antique), Saabs with Mass plates ( 😉 ) ….It isn’t the luxury nature. One can have very “quiet” luxury car and not earn my epithet. It’s the “in your face” statement cars.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Now, now — these people are trying SO hard to compensate. Can’t you be charitable and call them “masculine hygiene products”?

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I’m glad that you qualified what you said about Corvettes with ” (non-antique),” because I like the old ones. Like, say, a 1962 model. Or, while we’re on the subject, a Jaguar XKE from the same year.

            Not that I’d ever have one myself. Even if I were a billionaire, I might have trouble justifying to myself the money and time such an impractical purchase would require.

            I do enjoy looking at the old cars that OTHER people lavish time and money on. I enjoyed seeing this Ford in traffic just the other day. I’m guessing it’s about a 1950. Of course, it’s nowhere near as cool as a 1962 ‘Vette:

            old Ford

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Well, I also like antique cars, although there’s a certain death wish involved in driving, them, seeing as how they lack the most effective safety features, for the most part.
              and orange fiberglass Corvettes, even if antique, are straight out, even if driven ironically while wearing aviators and an open shirt with a chest medallion.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                If we’re talking about older cars, (in Rod Serling voice) submitted for your approval:

                1966 Chevelle

                1966 Ford Bronco

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    That is, in fact, the Chevelle SS. My uncle had one of those. Not that particular one, but I ought to dig up a picture of him with his. He was quite the guy. In Vietnam, he fixed Hueys that were shot up by the NVA but were still repairable. He was so good at fixing the Hueys that eventually they started flying him out to Hueys that had been shot down with his tools, so he could fix ’em up and fly ’em back out.

                    After the war, being good at fixing complex machines, he opened up his own high-end auto body/repair shop, where he repaired Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and all sort of other exotic cars.

                    He’s retired from all that now, but he sure has some good stories.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      I don’t think I want to be THAT good at anything.

                      I want to be “good at fixing stuff back at the hangar” good. Not “so good we’re gonna fly you out to a hot LZ to fix it” good…

                1. Kathryn Fenner

                  The SUV makes my teeth and butt hurt just looking at it. I’m guessing it’s a boneshaker?

          3. Mark Stewart

            Kathryn, I just encountered an even bigger d-bag type of road warrior – an investment banker in khakis commuting to the office through heavy traffic on a $3,000 plus road bike.

            As with every place in life. there is always that 10% that go out of their way to tick everyone else off. I’m all for sharing the road with bikes – and staying alert to their presence (like staying off the phone screen while driving) – but sometimes I’d be happy to see one of these a-hole riders take a spill that leads to a nice raspberry and a trashed bike.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Bike riders who ride down the middle of the road and refuse to even get over to the side make me wish that I had some James-Bond style machine guns that could pop up out of the hood of my car.

              1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

                Bike riders are entitled to an entire lane. They are safer when they use it. They are not entitled to ride in the sidewalk. That is where pedestrians, including runners, should be. Runners should not be in the road, even if the sidewalk is uneven.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Yes, I know they are legally entitled to an entire lane. However, when they are impeding traffic by going slower than molasses running uphill in the winter, I get kind of stabby.

            2. Kathryn Braun Fenner

              I would only have an issue with him if he were on his phone or otherwise wearing headphones

              1. Mark Stewart

                It’s when bikers weave through heavy traffic and ignore stop signs, crosswalks (and pedestrians), turn lanes and turn signals that I get annoyed with their sense of entitlement.

                bikers seem particularly oblivious to the physics stacked against them – as if by seer force of will they can remake the physical reality of the road. That’s hubris.

              2. Kathryn Fenner

                Well, yeah. I am no fan of the Premium Rush style of bicycling. We don’t get those down here, though.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Michael Wukela in the mayor’s office just called me back to say that yes, the city’s hydrogen fueling station is still there…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I was just wondering if Wukela was still working for the Mare. I see and hear of Sam Johnson all the time.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well… I ASSUME he’s still working for him. But I called him on his cell. I don’t know where he was. Seems like, though, he might have said something if he weren’t still with the mayor, when I asked whether the city’s fueling station was still open…

  3. Norman Ivey

    I love the idea of hydrogen cars, and although the reasons they haven’t taken off are excessive cost and insufficient infrastructure, they provide no real environmental/sustainability advantage over a good hybrid. We still use fossil fuels to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen will only become more attractive when we start producing it using more sustainable forms of energy production.

    The Chevy Volt still looks to me like the best currently available electric hybrid option. For your daily around town, you can run pure electric by charging nightly. For longer trips, you have gasoline. In ten years, most of us will be driving some sort of electric or hybrid.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    On my daily walk with the pooches, I noted that USC police are driving behemoth sedans and SUVs. Why? It’s not like they will need to engage in high speed chases. I realize they police the medical school out Garners Ferry and the Equestrian Center in Blythewood, but for the most part, they could easily be in hydrogen-fueled or electric vehicles. Heck, they’d be far more able to perceive campus issues on bikes or horses (and they do have some bike officers)….
    The city staff now use a lot of Priuses unless they really need a truck. It used to be the zoning officials went about in gas-guzzling pickups.

  5. Bill

    I want public transit.Like microwaves and computers,cars are depressingly indispensable.
    If it has tires or testicles,it’s gonna be trouble/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BulwGjemU0Q

  6. Bryan Caskey

    I think about 66% of the electricity in South Carolina is generated by fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), with nuclear power coming in second at somewhere around 20%.

    I point this out to people in electric cars after they chastise me for driving something other than an electric or hybrid. This usually results in them calling me a not-so-nice name.

    Best short term solution would be for more car manufacturers to make diesel powered cars. The most fuel efficient car I ever had was a VW Passat TDI (diesel) during law school. It would get 50MPG on the highway. Range was amazing.

    After I put a couple hundred thousand miles on it, the transmission gave out, so I sold it in to finance my current Honda.

    At one point in my life, I was a Gen-X lawyer who drove a diesel Volkswagen, and had an Apple laptop as my main computer. If that was all you knew about me, you would have bet the ranch I was a left-winger.

    It was extraordinarily fun to surprise people who assumed that.

    1. Norm Ivey

      South Carolina gets about 60% of its electrical energy from nuclear. Percentage-wise, we’re number 1 out of 50. Our coal electrical output is about half that. It’s far more efficient to use fossil fuels to generate electricity to charge an electric car than it is to burn those fossil fuels directly in a vehicle. And you’re burning Kentucky coal instead of Saudi oil.

      I agree that more diesels are part of the best short-term solution. Diesels are more efficient than gasoline engines, but less efficient that gasoline-electric hybrids. The emissions from diesels are generally cleaner than gasoline engines. And, they can run on vegetable oil waste with little or no modification.

      I’ve mentioned this here before. The railroads get incredible efficiency out of their locomotives because they are diesel-electric hybrids. They use diesel fuel to generate electricity, and use electricity to drive the wheels. Their commercials claiming they can move a tone of freight 480 miles on one gallon of fuel is an accurate claim. Try doing that in your SUV or your Prius.

      1. Norm Ivey

        And because nuclear has zero CO2 emissions, it’s far more advantageous to drive an electric or hybrid in SC than in, say, North Carolina.

          1. Norman Ivey

            Solar panels aren’t free, but electricity is cheaper than gasoline. The fuel cost is in the cost of the panels.

            If you have solar panels on your home, and you are tied to the grid (as most installations are), it matters not whether the sun is shining. You can charge anyway. If you are not tied to the grid, you will have a battery of storage cells that can be used to charge your car at any time including nights and cloudy days.

            1. Norman Ivey

              And some of your fuel cost is in the original cost of the car (in the form of the battery).

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Speaking of which, I’m enjoying our own little solar panel innovation at Castle Warthen.

              My son has had these little lights on stakes along his driveway for some time. The kind that absorbs solar energy during the day and lights the driveway at night.

              Apparently because we had admired his, he gave my wife a set of eight of them for Mother’s Day, which I immediately put together and installed along a dark sidewalk leading from our driveway to our front door.

              Each night since then, my wife and I go out to see it they’re lit after the sun goes down, and take great satisfaction from finding that they are, because we just think it’s so very COOL…

              1. Norman Ivey

                A miniature example of what I am talking about with an off-the-grid setup. The solar cells charge the storage batteries which power the cells at night.

      2. Mark Stewart

        Fisker Surf. That would have been a sweet answer to nobody’s need.

        Electric (or hybrid) cars will be a marginal play until someone makes a quantum leap in battery technology.

        1. Norman Ivey

          Battery technology is improving every day. Toyota warranties its Prius battery for 8 years/100,000 miles.

          I think the real force that will drive adoption of hybrids will be gasoline prices. Just as the recent drop in fuel costs drove the sales of SUVs up, an increase in fuel prices will drive up the sales of hybrids.

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