Next generation Toyota Mirai revealed as hydrogen flagship

Next generation Toyota Mirai revealed as hydrogen flagship

Next generation Toyota Mirai revealed as hydrogen flagship

In one fell swoop, Toyota has taken its egg-shaped Mirai hydrogen vehicle and morphed it into a low-slung, long-bonneted, rear-wheel drive sports sedan that looks more like a track star than an eco hero.

It's fair to say the first-generation Mirai was fiendishly clever; it's also fair to say that its design was an acquired taste.

In the on-going tussle between battery-powered and combustion engine vehicles, Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology seems to combine the best of both worlds - fossil-free EV propulsion paired with the range and refueling time of a traditional ICE-powered auto.

Toyota-which launched a mass-produced fuel cell sedan, the Mirai, in December 2014-has had plans to expand its FCEV product range and continues to seek to bring cost down. One that you might actively want to park on your drive.

The inherent advantage of a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain is its non-reliance on the grid, which so often is the defining aspect of the argument about how clean battery electric vehicles actually are from a well-to-wheel perspective. It's longer and wider than the outgoing Mirai, but lower.

The second-generation Mirai is built on a rear-wheel drive platform, a major departure from the original front-wheel drive version in terms of design.

Toyota has sold fewer than 10 000 of the Mirai, a fuel cell sedan it touted as a game changer at its launch five years ago. There'll be a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation and a 14-speaker JBL audio system as standard, along with an 8-inch digital display for the driver's instrumentation.

Toyota has been slower than its peers to embrace electric vehicles, citing uncertain demand in key markets including the USA and technical hurdles that limit battery range and recharging times.

The new Mirai can drive about 560 miles on a full tank.

"I want customers to say, 'I chose the Mirai not because it's an FCEV, but because I really wanted this auto, and it just happened to be an FCEV, '" said Yoshikazu Tanaka, the chief engineer for the outgoing and upcoming versions of the Mirai.

The issue of charging infrastructure and its impact on power grids is also one that's side-stepped by hydrogen fuel cell tech - though with hydrogen-capable fuel stations being very rare in most parts of the world, Mirai owners may find their range of movement somewhat limited for a while yet. However unlike with an ICE, the only emission from the Mirai is pure water.

Let's not pull punches: The first-gen Mirai looks like the unfortunate spawn of a Prius and a Dustbuster. It has room inside for five passengers, one more than the current model, and sports racier 20-inch wheels.

The first Mirai - which means "future" in Japanese - debuted in late 2014, but availability in the USA has been limited to California and Hawaii.

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