For Toyota, hydrogen still the route forward


Toyota's Mirai fuel-cell sedan has been revealed in concept form, ahead of its complete redesign for the 2021 model year.

The "coupe-inspired" styling is dramatic and bold, doing away with the awkward hatchback and replacing it with a sedan form-factor.

With the new model, Toyota is rebooting the series with a more coupe- and Lexus- (and less Prius-) inspired design, while surprisingly ditching the first Mirai's more common front-wheel drive architecture for a sportier rear-wheel drive setup, all in the name of creating a more desirable auto. It has a long hood, an elongated snout, a large grille extending to the lower bumper, a longer wheelbase, and a curvy fastback roofline.

Inside, the layout is cleaner and more modern, while the extra space allows for five-passenger seating. In addition to having more range, Toyota is promising a quieter and more engaging driving experience.

Despite things looking promising on paper, Toyota, which came up with one of the first commercial hydrogen fuel cell-powered sedans, has had a very niche market with its Mirai (which means "future" in Japanese).

The simple, flowing lines of the dash neatly integrate a higher level of user tech in the new Mirai, including a standard 8-inch digital combination meter and available digital rearview mirror that displays images from a rear camera. This means a total range of 400 miles per full charge, which is 30-percent better than the previous Mirai.

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 realise a hydrogen energy society'.

Certainly, there are areas where FCEVs have advantages over all-electric cars along with gas-electric hybrids. The only emission it creates from the tailpipe is water. But unlike an EV, hydrogen-powered cars like the Mirai can be refilled in roughly five minutes. At least if the 2021 Mirai drives as well as it looks, that might be something that more people want to see changed. Hydrogen vehicles still use electric motors for drive, but they get their electricity from a chemical reaction via a device known as a fuel cell. These powerful, zero-emission big rigs are now used for moving freight in and around the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, California.

Toyota's bet - that it can position a hydrogen sedan for more of a mass market - flies in the face of rivals wagering on putting batteries into the bigger-bodied vehicles consumers are buying.