Published on October 13th, 2019 | by Steve Hanley0
Meet The New Toyota Mirai: Same As The Old Mirai, Only Different
October 13th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Toyota is still fixated on cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which make electricity from hydrogen stored onboard. A few years ago, it unveiled the Mirai, a fuel cell powered four door sedan with about 300 miles of range. At the time, there were no battery electric cars that could go as far without recharging but over the past few years, longer range battery electrics have come available, mostly from Tesla.
The styling of the original Mirai was controversial in a Flash Gordon meets Buzz Lightyear sort of way. Some thought it attractive but most found it about as appealing as the south end of northbound horse.
The big appeal of hydrogen fuel cells is that their only emissions are water vapor and a little heat. The problem is, there is no significant hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the United States save for a handful stations in California. So the allure of longer range is blunted by the lack of an ability to refill the hydrogen tanks. Also, anecdotally, it’s not unusual for the refueling stations that do exist to be out of service or suffering from non-functioning pumps.
Toyota will introduce the second generation Mirai at the Tokyo auto show later this month and it is an entirely different kettle of fish. According to CNN Business, the new car is built on the same platform as the Lexus LS sedan and LC coupe. It is now a rear wheel drive car, unlike the original, which was based on a front wheel drive platform.
The styling is more inline with the contemporary Lexus look. Gone are the MIG-21 style air scoops at each front corner, replaced by a fairly normal looking grill. Inside, the interior is quite swoopy and more in line with what a Lexus owner might expect.
The big news from a technology perspective is a next generation fuel cell with improved performance, according Oil Price.com. With the new fuel cell and larger hydrogen storage tanks, the second generation Mirai will have about 30% more range — closer to 400 miles versus 300 miles. Of course, more range is fairly academic if there is no hydrogen refueling station available when the hydrogen runs out.
“We have worked to make a car that customers will want to drive all the time, a car that has an emotional and attractive design and the kind of dynamic and responsive performance that can bring a smile to the driver’s face,” says Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Mirai, in a press release.
“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.”
Will the Mirai ignite the fuel cell revolution? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.