Mirai deputy chief engineer Ryotaro Shimizu mentioned that the corporate was searching for a extra “emotional design” for the brand new mannequin. Gone are the quirky vertical air inlets on the nostril (obligatory for the gas cell to breathe) in favor of an enormous ahead grille. The automobile is a few inches shorter and wider, and almost six inches longer than its predecessor. Most of that house has been used for higher legroom and luxury, and to make room for a fifth passenger. Relying on specification, it ships with both 19- or 20-inch wheels, making all the things look just a little extra aggressive and sporty in comparison with the 17-inch wheels on its predecessor.
Inside, the most important change past the fancier, Lexus-esque inside, is that the first show is now not housed within the central console. Driving the primary Mirai (and the present Prius, for that matter) you wanted to look too far down, off the street, to see the GPS show. Now the display is mounted subsequent to the instrument cluster, and it’s angled to favor the motive force, which ought to make it a lot simpler to make use of.
There was some free house between the motive force and passenger on the leg degree within the authentic Mirai, however within the up to date mannequin there’s now virtually a dividing wall. It’s crammed with bins and a cell phone charging plate, however this was primarily modified to make room beneath for the longer, centrally-housed gas tank. It ought to, at the least, present loads of house for the doodads and ephemera that taxi drivers — a giant buyer for the Mirai — wish to hold readily available whereas they’re driving round.
Toyota additionally needs to dispel the notion that the brand new Mirai will deal with as, uh, gracefully as its predecessor. Driving followers typically berate the Prius for its sluggish dealing with and feeling of disconnection from the street. The brand new Mirai has rear-wheel drive, with multi-link suspension, a sportier choice in comparison with the front-wheel-drive first mannequin. As well as, the centrally-mounted hydrogen tanks imply the automobile has a decrease middle of gravity, a extra inflexible physique, and, Toyota says, close-to 50:50 weight distribution. Don’t count on it to deal with like a race automobile, however perhaps it’ll really feel rather less like driving a cruise ship.
Shimizu added that if you hit the gasoline pedal, you must really feel a “superb kick,” suggesting acceleration has additionally been improved. Toyota has additionally added one thing known as an “Energetic Sound Creator,” a built-in pretend engine noise to assist the motive force perceive what’s occurring with their automobile as a result of the Mirai has been designed to be impossibly quiet by itself.
Making the Mirai roomier would have been troublesome until Toyota may shrink the automobile’s most cumbersome ingredient; the gas cell. The 114kW unit from the primary automobile occupied 33 liters of house, dominating the engine bay. Toyota is boasting that the brand new mannequin takes up 9 liters much less, at 24 liters, however is 10 % extra environment friendly, outputting 128kW regardless of the smaller dimension. In addition to being smaller, it has fewer, uh, cells in its stack: 330, down from 370 earlier than.
This allowed Toyota to put in the larger hydrogen tank, which runs alongside the ground of the automobile. It’s joined by two smaller tanks, one beneath the rear seats, and one below the trunk ground. The general impact is that the gas capability has elevated from 4.6kg to five.6kg and, mixed with the brand new gas cell, contributes to a 30 % vary improve.
When you drive sensibly, the brand new Mirai’s quoted vary is round 650km, or 403 miles — sufficient to cowl the gap between Tokyo and Osaka. After all, the present pandemic implies that journalists can’t but take a look at out any of those claims in the actual world. It might be a while earlier than folks can truly drive round on this car.
Toyota typically lets its advertising and marketing braggadocio get the higher of it a couple of occasions and this behavior is in full view right here. The corporate describes the brand new Mirai as a “unfavourable emissions” car, as a result of it filters the air because it passes via the gas cell. The filtration course of can take away as much as 100% of the particulates, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide it comes into contact with. So far as Toyota is worried, this automobile cleans the air it drives via, and the on-screen show will even let you know what number of adults’ price of respiration you’ve washed as you drive.
This is similar form of skewed logic that the corporate makes use of to explain its petrol-electric hybrids as “self-charging.” On one hand, sure, these automobiles cost their personal batteries, however that’s primarily achieved by burning carbon-emitting fossil fuels. Equally right here, a brand new Mirai automobile has burned up carbon in its development, and till the vast majority of hydrogen is produced with renewables, it’s not but a carbon-neutral gas, both. Electrical and gas cell automobiles are — general — far cleaner than their petrol-powered counterparts, however these easily-debunkable semi-truths do fuel-cell autos (or any type of cleaner automobile) no favors by any means.
The brand new Mirai will retail for round 20 % lower than the primary version. The sticker worth for the primary mannequin was across the $60,000 mark, so you may count on that to fall to round $50,000 now. However you’ll nonetheless have to reside shut sufficient to a hydrogen station to maintain the factor operating, and within the US, that’s restricted to elements of California and one a part of Hawaii. Personal collectors who need one to sit down of their storage are not any good for the corporate’s mission of elevating consciousness and demand for hydrogen automobiles.
Other than a couple of high-profile people and public our bodies, the vast majority of the 11,000 first-generation Mirais had been handed over to fleet operators and taxi firms. That is the place hydrogen’s strengths lie: Simply as clear as an EV, however with a refuelling time of round 5 minutes. A variety of German taxi firms adopted a number of Mirais into their fleet particularly to make sure that their new automobiles wouldn’t be sat in recharging bays for a number of hours a day.
The primary Mirai, and its gas cells, had been hand-built to order in the identical small workshop the place Lexus’ LFA (its short-lived supercar) was manufactured. Now, Toyota has developed the power to mass produce each the automobile and its cells, with gas cells now taking “seconds” to construct, reasonably than round quarter-hour beforehand. As a consequence, the corporate is focusing on a ten-times improve in worldwide gross sales. It needs the Mirai to be as transformational now because the second-generation Prius was via the primary decade of this century.
However the infrastructure to assist automobiles like Mirai has but to show up. Within the US, there are simply 45 hydrogen refuelling stations: 43 in California, and one in Connecticut and Hawaii, respectively. In Germany, there are 87 stations, whereas the UK has 13, and France has simply four. Japan, in the meantime, has round 127 hydrogen stations, however its authorities has mentioned it wants nearer to 900 country-wide. However for most individuals, even fascinated with shopping for a hydrogen automobile is an impossibility given the dearth of infrastructure.
Japan could also be Toyota’s dwelling turf, however the nation’s vocal assist for hydrogen isn’t nearly backing its homegrown champion. The nation has struggled for some time with power independence and has traditionally wanted to purchase in oil from outdoors sources. Within the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe, the nation’s energy self-sufficiency rate fell to single digits. The nation’s Ministry of Financial system, Commerce and Business has, for some time, pitched a scheme whereby it mass-imports hydrogen produced in Australia, decreasing its dependence on Center East oil. The 2020 Olympics was intended to act as a showcase for hydrogen, with a hydrogen Olympic Flame, hydrogen-powered olympic village and hydrogen gas cell buses shuttling folks to occasions.
Toyota’s grand plan to exchange gasoline with hydrogen has additionally been usurped by the rise of EVs. The corporate has basically ceded the small automobile market to electrical automobile producers, since you may’t but make a gas cell sufficiently small to slot in a metropolis automobile. And Toyota, regardless of all of its expertise within the subject, remains to be readying its first correct vary of “pure” battery EVs. As for hydrogen, Toyota’s focus appears to be on the heavier, longer-range automobile market, in addition to trucks and trains. It’s right here, the place battery weight and worth are much less problematic, that hydrogen becomes a viable energy source.
“Mirai” in Japanese interprets to “future” and there may be some hope that hydrogen’s day is, maybe, coming. Within the US, President Elect Joe Biden has pledged to make use of renewable power to “produce carbon-free hydrogen on the identical price as that from shale gasoline” as a part of his clear power jobs plan. The UK just lately committed to spending as much as £500 million to generate as much as 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen for “trade, transport, energy and houses.” Japan, in the meantime, has been investing in hydrogen manufacturing for the final six years, and expects the price to fall beneath the purpose the place it now not wants public subsidy.
However none of that is going to return in time to assist Toyota promote the 100,000-or-so Mirais it plans to supply within the subsequent few years. For that to occur, there must be large progress within the variety of hydrogen stations and services to supply it cleanly. Toyota isn’t giving up on hydrogen gas cells, nevertheless it’s not clear when the world will likely be prepared sufficient for FCEVs just like the Mirai.