Toyota's New Hydrogen Car Takes On Tesla

The 2021 Toyota Mirai gets an 8-inch digital combination meter as standard and it's available with a digital rearview mirror

Toyota has sold around 10,000 previous generation Mirais, but it hopes the new car's looks will inspire more customers to open their wallets.

It's fair to say the first-generation Mirai was fiendishly clever; it's also fair to say that its design was an acquired taste.

Toyota has handed down a first look at its next-generation 2020 Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV), ahead of this month's Tokyo motor show.

Toyota-which launched a mass-produced fuel cell sedan, the Mirai, in December 2014-has had plans to expand its FCEV product range and continues to seek to bring cost down. "We want to give people choices". The next Mirai will be sold in more states as Toyota adds more fuel stations in the Northeast and other parts of the country.

The 2021 Mirai will be longer, lower, and wider.

Set to make its first public debut at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month, the second-gen Toyota Mirai you see here might say "concept" in its name, but this is no auto show one-off - it's expected to be wholly representative of the production vehicle that will go on sale next year in Japan, Europe and the United States.

The Mirai concept hints at a sleeker, more aerodynamic design, and it boasts a more rigid chassis and rear-wheel drive to boot.

A big 12.3-inch main display sits proud atop the dash, flanking a large digital instrument display behind the steering wheel.

But this is more than just an attractive rebody of the old front-drive Mirai.

"I want customers to say, 'I chose the Mirai not because it's an FCEV, but because I really wanted this auto, and it just happened to be an FCEV, '" said Yoshikazu Tanaka, the chief engineer for the outgoing and upcoming versions of the Mirai.

Certainly, there are areas where FCEVs have advantages over all-electric cars along with gas-electric hybrids. The only byproduct of that process is water, meaning hydrogen vehicles don't expel harmful emissions.

Toyota began developing hydrogen-powered cars more than 20 years ago, but progress has been slow due to high material costs and steep hurdles to setting up refueling infrastructure. Toyota isn't revealing any specific figures yet, but says the second-gen Mirai should offer more performance and a more dynamic feel from behind the wheel. Right now that means you're basically limited to select spots in California or Hawaii.

The original Mirai was not much of a looker. Toyota now only sells the Mirai in a handful of dealerships in the United States, because there are only a relatively small number of locations where hydrogen fuel is actually available.

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