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Winners & Losers: Toyota goes hydrogen-powered, Uber loses a flame war

With friends like Ashton Kutcher...


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Green-tinted Toyota Mirai

Do you remember how smug Toyota Prius drivers were when the hybrid electric car first came out? Prepare for more smugness. Toyota unveiled the Mirai this week, its first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car. Toyota helped push adoption of low-emission hybrid vehicles with the Prius, and is now hoping the Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, will do the same for zero-emission fuel cell vehicles. The only thing the Mirai emits from its tailpipe is water vapour. Scientists have been pursuing hydrogen fuel cell technology for decades and struggled to make it affordable. The Mirai, however, will retail for $57,500 when it goes on sale next year and will be able to travel 300 miles on a single tank. One hitch is that, to start, it will only be available in California, where re-fueling infrastructure is currently being built. Still, Toyota has ambitious plans for the Mirai, and aims to build hydrogen stations in the eastern U.S. starting in 2016 to encourage adoption. Just remember that any impending smugness is in service of a cleaner environment.


Car wreck

Red-tinted Uber car

The popular yet increasingly loathsome company is in trouble yet again. This week, BuzzFeed reported that Emil Michael, a senior VP with the ride-hailing app company, talked about spending a million dollars to hire a team of eight people dedicated to digging up dirt on journalists critical of the company. Michael was particularly focused on Sarah Lacy of Pando Daily, who had recently accused the company of “sexism and misogyny” and wrote about deleting her Uber app. Company CEO Travis Kalanick attempted to smooth things over with a rambling 14-tweet apology that never quite hit the mark. (Minor quibble, Travis. Writing, “I want to apologize” to Sarah Lacy and ending your sentence there isn’t quite the same thing as writing, “I’m sorry, Sarah.”) It was just last month that Uber had to grovel for forgiveness when its Lyon, France office partnered with an escort agency to offer rides with “hot chick” drivers. Taken together, the events paint Uber as an immature company with a penchant for bullying. But at least Ashton Kutcher is still on its side. The actor and Uber investor tweeted, “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist? [sic]” And: “So as long as journalist [sic] are interested and willing to print half truths as facts…we should question the source.” And: “Here comes the part where journalist [sic] explain why they should be exempt from ridicule.” Let that be a lesson to all the journalist out there.