Toyota’s Mirai BTTF campaign may just sell hydrogen cars after all

21 Oct 2015

The Toyota Mirai. Image via Toyota

Toyota has pulled off one of the best marketing coups in recent years by using Back to the Future Day to show off its hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai, by recruiting the film’s two stars.

The video was first teased to YouTube users by showing Christopher Lloyd (who played Doc Brown) and Michael J Fix (Marty McFly) as they debate the realities of what the real 2015 has achieved compared with the one that featured in Back to the Future (BTTF).

A concept that has been debated, ad nauseam, in the last few days, culminated in the pair being introduced to Toyota’s, and the world’s, first truly commercial hydrogen car amidst a whirl of BTTF references and the science behind the technology.

It’s been nearly a year since the car actually made its official debut, which covered, but it is now being released commercially for the first time, with expectations of selling 700 cars in its first release.

Perhaps most interestingly, looking at the technology in a BTTF frame of mind, the Mr Fusion reactor that collects trash and turns it into fuel isn’t actually that far off what the Mirai does.

As Toyota explains in its video, the hydrogen gases created by the many landfill sites that dot the world’s landscape can actually be turned into fuel, which can be harvested by giant processors, rather than a consumer device with a friendly name like Mr Fusion.

While access to fuel pumps remains, and will be for some time, its biggest obstacle, Toyota claims that the Mirai will be able to do a little under 500km (482km) on a single tank of hydrogen fuel emitting nothing but water vapour.

Also, compared with an electric vehicle (EV) that takes usually a minimum of 15-20 minutes to charge to at least 80pc capacity, the Mirai will take three minutes.

Mirai fuel cell

The Mirai’s fuel cell. Image via Toyota

And while we’re quick to think that this type of technology is beyond the realms of possibility within the shores of Ireland, we can at least be assured that our neighbours across the Irish Sea will be getting access to them.

Along with Germany and Denmark, the UK is expected to have 12 of the hydrogen-powered cars on the road by the end of this year, with four of them being set aside for the Transport for London organisation.

The car isn’t cheap, however, with the retail price – not including government tax relief – being £66,000 (€90,000) but, in the meantime, we might be actually closer to getting an electric DeLorean, which was also revealed today by students at Queen’s University Belfast.

Regardless, with the real-world development of a hoverboard in the works by Toyota’s sister company Lexus, and virtual reality (VR) technology advancing at a rapid rate, maybe with the help of BTTF, the Mirai and hydrogen cars can get the boost they need to go mainstream, at a speed of 88mph, of course.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic