Is that you, Mirai? Toyota just made hydrogen sexy
Believe it or not, this sleek-looking, very Lexus-esque sedan is the second-generation Toyota Mirai. While the first iteration of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-cell-powered sedan looked like an even more alien Prius, the nearly production-ready concept Toyota is previewing ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show has some serious style. On top of that, it boasts huge steps forward in technology that suggest Toyota is committed to making fuel-cell powertrains legitimately viable.
Battery-powered EVs seem like the future right now, bit major players in the car industry often talk about how fuel cell technology is the way forward. That’s because lithium-based battery electric vehicles are limited in size due to packaging, they remain heavy at any scale, and they use a number of non-renewable resources. Fuel cells may win in the long run thanks to the much more plentiful nature of hydrogen, but for the time being, we’re going with batteries, because that’s what the existing infrastructure is able to support in parts of the world where people can actually afford EVs.
With their thermo-isolated high-pressure fuel tanks and complicated, so far very slow and scarce refueling stations, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles aren’t yet close to being as convenient as a gas-powered car. Still, both Japan and South Korea are investing heavily into making the technology more mainstream. Even after about 10,000 units sold, the first-generation Toyota Mirai is still more of a conversation starter than a car that most customers would want to own, let alone die-hard car enthusiasts. The upcoming second-generation brings this fuel cell game to a whole new level.
For starters, the “Concept” premiering at the Tokyo Motor Show is rear-wheel drive. Toyota says “improvements in fuel cell technology offer up to 30 percent greater range, plus improved acceleration and performance.” On top of that, this second-generation Mirai just looks fantastic.
After making it speedier with more room in the cabin, Mirai Chief Engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka explained the higher objective: “I want customers to say ‘I chose the Mirai because I simply wanted this car, and it just happens to be an FCEV.’ We will continue our development work focusing on that feeling, and we hope that with the new Mirai we will be a leader in helping to realize a hydrogen energy society.”
While the rear overhang somewhat compromises the now five-seater sedan’s rear-drive proportions, its the 20-inch wheels and Toyota’s now “Force Blue Multiple Layers” paint really makes up for most of that. Inside, Mirai buyers will also find a 12.3-inch wide screen on the center console, as well as “an instrument panel that embraces the driver.”
Toyota also claims that the improvements made to the now higher capacity fuel cell system makes for handling that is “light and easy on winding roads”, while on the highway, the Mirai “produces an exceptional sense of power at all speeds.”
Scheduled for launch starting in late 2020, initially in Japan, North America and Europe, the second-generation Toyota Mirai seems to be a very serious contender for our eco-continuous hearts. Getting speed, central zone access and other green perks in exchange for emitting only water and heat sounds like a deal.