Happy Camper -- Jim Martellotti is among a select group of customers who've had the opportunity to take delivery of a Mirai. "I'm a big advocate of the car and the technology," he says.
If you were forced to describe Jim Martellotti in one word, “understated” would be an excellent choice. Ask the retiree about his life’s work and he’ll tell you that he worked for an international manufacturing company for 42 years. Not until much later does he let on that he was the president of the firm’s California division.
But the Southern Californian’s choice of vehicle? That’s anything but low key. Martellotti is one of the first people to make the Mirai, Toyota’s breakthrough hydrogen fuel cell-powered sedan, their day-to-day form of transportation.
“I must say, I’m much more conscious of my driving when I’m behind the wheel of this car,” he says. “People notice it. It definitely makes a statement.”
The fact he chose to be a trailblazer with an all-new powertrain that has the potential to transform the automotive industry says a lot about Martellotti as well. His journey down this path began 11 years ago when, after a lifetime of owning Ford vehicles, he purchased a 2005 Prius. He still has and enjoys his iconic hybrid liftback.
But with the years and miles beginning to pile up, Martellotti figured it was time to look into buying a new car. That led him to Toyota’s website, where he first heard about the Mirai. Intrigued, he signed up to receive email updates on the new model.
Then, in the spring of 2015, he received an invitation to test drive the Mirai in nearby Costa Mesa. He wasted no time accepting and, in fact, was the first at that event to put the car through its paces. Next came a brief questionnaire to ensure Martellotti understood the ins and outs of a fuel cell vehicle. “I did,” he says. In November, with the help of Sales Consultant April Conner at Tustin Toyota, he took delivery.
Command Center -- Martellotti, who focused on technical issues and problem solving during his long career in manufacturing, feels right at home with the Mirai's futuristic instrument panel.
‘A Very Good Experience’
So, what’s life been like with the Mirai?
“It’s been a very good experience,” says Martellotti. “It’s a very comfortable car. I certainly enjoy that it’s an electric vehicle and you don’t have the noise of an engine running. And I like the technology. I’m all in favor of new technology.”
That just might be the key connecting point between Martellotti and the Mirai. During his career, he preferred to delegate his management duties to others so he could focus his attention on technical issues and problem solving.
When assessing the Mirai, Martellotti says his most significant concern is the availability of stations where its tank can be refilled with compressed hydrogen. He’s fortunate to have two options—in Lake Forest, Calif., and on the University of California-Irvine campus—within seven miles of his house.
“There were 12 stations in California when I first started driving the car and there are 20 now,” he says. “It’s getting better. But there’s still a long way to go. There’s only one station between Los Angeles and San Francisco, along Interstate 5. If for some reason that station is down, you’re not going anywhere.”
Fast Fill Up -- Unlike battery-electric vehicles, the Mirai's compressed hydrogen tank can be refilled in just minutes -- like a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.
‘A Big Advocate for the Car’
Those concerns, however, don’t prevent Martellotti from getting around. Far from it. He routinely relies on his Mirai to take him from Orange County to San Diego, Los Angeles and even as far north as Santa Barbara—and back home again. The Mirai has an EPA-estimated driving range of 311 miles. But, as expected, Martellotti’s experience varies based on how he drives and other factors. On one occasion, he managed to coax 355 miles out of a tank. The lessons he learned driving a Prius are helping him extend the Mirai’s range.
“I have no hesitation about driving anywhere,” he says. “The car’s mileage seems to be sensitive to how you drive. If you have a heavy foot, you might only get about 270 miles. But if you go light on it, you can get 330-340. I’m a very conservative driver.”
Spreading the News -- Martellotti stocks his Mirai with sales brochures to hand out to the curious. "People notice it," he says. "It definitely makes a statement."
As much as Martellotti enjoys driving the Mirai, he does wish it had the cargo-carrying versatility of his Prius. And another USB port or two would be appreciated. But these are minor compared with the huge potential upside of converting to an energy source that could help reduce the amount of carbon that ends up in the atmosphere.
“I have brochures with me wherever I go,” he says. “People have pulled up beside me at a stop light, rolled down their window and asked, ‘Is that the new Prius?’ So I’ve handed them a brochure. I’m a big advocate of the car and the technology.”
By Dan Miller