Despite the low sales of fuel cell-electric cars and severe lack of hydrogen fuel stations they require, Toyota is planning a redesign for its Mirai.
The Japanese auto giant on Thursday released the first photos of a concept that closely adheres to the design of the redesigned Mirai due on sale in late 2020 as a 2021 model.
The original Mirai was launched for 2016 at a starting price of $57,500, or a monthly lease of $499. That's steep for what is essentially a non-premium compact sedan, so for the car's redesign Toyota has taken a more upmarket path.
2016 Toyota Mirai
The Mirai concept hints at a sleeker, more aerodynamic design, and it boasts a more rigid chassis and rear-wheel drive to boot. The concept also hints at a bigger overall size, with the length coming in at 195.8 inches, or about three inches more than the current Mirai.
The bigger size means bigger hydrogen storage tanks. Toyota is targeting a 30-percent increase in range compared to the current Mirai which is good for about 300 miles. Future buyers can also expect more power than the current Mirai's 153 horsepower, Toyota promises.
For the interior, the designers have clearly cribbed from the Lexus playbook. The dash is largely clear of buttons as many of the usual controls have been moved to an 12.3-inch touchscreen display. This is joined by an 8.0-inch screen that serves as the instrument cluster. A digital rearview mirror will also be offered on the redesigned Mirai. Adding to the luxury feel, the designers also made efforts to ensure the cabin is quieter than in the current Mirai.
2021 Toyota Mirai concept
Toyota says it now sees fuel cell-electric cars potentially replacing today's hybrids, while the majority of cars with only internal-combustion power get replaced by battery-electric cars. The automaker has previously said fuel cells should match hybrids in pricing by the end of the next decade.
Toyota sold about 1,700 Mirais in the United States last year, but part of the reason for the low sales is limited availability. The next Mirai will be sold in more states as Toyota adds more fuel stations in the Northeast and other parts of the country. Currently, they only feature in California and Hawaii.
Toyota is also exploring the potential for fuel cells in semi-trailer trucks. After conducting trials for the past couple of years, Toyota in January said it will partner with truck manufacturer Kenworth to build a fleet of 10 semi-trailer trucks fitted with fuel cell-electric powertrains. The zero-emission trucks, which also have a range of about 300 miles, will be used to transport cargo across the L.A. basin and to various nearby cities.