As we continue to see more alternative fuel cars show up on the roads their hold on the car buying market have yet to be determined. Currently there are not many places a car can refuel on hydrogen if that is what powers your vehicle, give you a serious case of range-anxiety, which is also felt on some all-electric models. In order to help increase the popularity of alternative fuel and all-electric vehicles, they need to be seen on grander stages performing functions and showing off some great looks, at least that was the thought from Toyota when they assigned the Pace Car duties to the Toyota Mirai for the Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.
The Mirai is a hydrogen powered car from Toyota that will be offered for 2016 in California where in a partnership with Toyota and the State of California, many hydrogen refueling stations have been installed to make it possible for this car and others to refuel as needed. Unfortunately this does limit the range a Mirai can drive because of the limit of refilling stations, but it’s the first step in the use of a much cleaner and more available fuel.
The race in Richmond was unfortunately delayed by a day due to rain, but with the beautiful Sunday that followed the rainy Saturday, the Mirai was able to take on and perform its duties as the Pace Car expertly. While leading the pack of 43 racers around the tri-oval three-quarter mile track at Richmond, the Mirai made its historical run around the track without incident, marking the second time Toyota has had an alternative fuel pace car on the track for a Sprint Cup race.
The first time Toyota had an alternative fuel pace car was in 2009 when a Camry Hybrid made its way around the Charlotte Motor Speedway to lead the way at the Coca Cola 600. With the Mirai running at Richmond this event made history as the cleanest running pace car ever. The goal was not only to have the cleanest running pace car but to also gain some exposure for the new Toyota Mirai to give the masses a look at a car the can handle the duties of daily driving while running on a fuel that shows low to no emissions while still driving with plenty of power and capability.
What is next for the Mirai? With the launch for the 2016 model year, the car will be available in limited markets where the hydrogen fuel centers are being built to support the advances that are being made in hydrogen powered engines. This exposure during the Richmond race hopefully gave the Mirai at least a nationwide look for all of use to see what this car is and what it is at least mildly capable of, making the next step seeing some on public roads performing the duties of daily driving as it becomes the next mass production model to be fueled by hydrogen.