Japanese car maker Toyota has launched a “completely redesigned” 2021 Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and says the updated model will be available in Australia next year.
The Mirai was first introduced by Toyota in 2014, and the new model is the second-generation of the hydrogen-powered vehicle.
Toyota says while its previous Mirai incarnation was in “limited supply”, and its second-gen Mirai has responded to customer feedback for a vehicle with larger seating capacity and a claimed longer driving range of 850 kilometres for the G variant, or 750km for the Z variant, before needing to refuel.
Hydrogen-powered FCEVs are touted as a ready carbon-free alternative to petrol and diesel cars, because hydrogen is abundant and its use has no tailpipe emissions. But they have had limited take-up due in part due to the high costs of installing hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.
FCEVs are also criticised because of the energy needed to generate hydrogen, and carbon emitted if using non-renewable energy sources, although recent “green hydrogen” efforts such as by the Queensland government are seeking to resolve this issue.
The announcement of the new Mirai comes as Toyota – which has driven mass volume sales of hybrid vehicles both overseas aswell as in Australia – finally announced it is close to producing an all-electric SUV.
But it still has high hopes for the Mirai. In a brochure outlining details of the new Mirai, product planning chief Yoshikazu Tanaka said, “I want customers to say, ‘I chose the Mirai because I simply wanted this kind of car.”
According to Toyota, it has re-engineered the Mirai’s fuel cell system for more efficiency, power and range. As with Hyundai’s Nexo, its air filtration system claims to clean dirty air as it drives – a nice marketing touch but ultimately necessary to ensure efficient performance of the fuel cells.
As with the new battery electric vehicle planned by Toyota, the Mirai uses an FCEV-specific version of the car maker’s TNGA platform, and includes a new hydrogen fuel cell tank to extend the cruising range.
Power from the 5.6kg worth of fuel cell tanks can also be used as a source of emergency power via an external DC power supply or via accessory outlets within the vehicle itself.
With a maximum power output of 134kW, Toyota says the instant torque of the new Mirai delivers fast acceleration and smooth driving experience, by using the drive battery upon starting.
Normal driving uses energy straight from the fuel cells, and when accelerating or driving up hill, the Mirai uses both the drive battery and the fuel cells. Naturally, regenerative braking aims to recover energy to feed back into the drive battery.
A high-mounted (at the front) and low-mounted (at the rear) multi-link suspension allow the new Mirai to achieve “light and clean” steering, while new shock absorbers deliver “excellent” steering response and rider comfort.
Driver assist features will include pre-collision warning, steering assist, radar cruise control, emergency stop assist, and an advanced package will offer additional “Toyota Teammate” higher-level driving assist functions such as lane changing and overtaking on expressways.
Toyota has only revealed Japanese pricing for the new Mirai so far. According to a statement by the company, it will cost from 7.1 million yen ($A91,439 converted) for the based G model up to 8.05 million yen ($A103,674 converted) for the Z model with executive upgrade.
As Japan is a right-hand drive company like Australia, it will be looking to sell locally from 2021.
However, uptake may be hampered by the limited local refuelling infrastructure. Hyundai has a fuel cell station for its Nexos at its headquarters in Sydney, and a trial of a public station in the ACT was put on hold due to the pandemic.
Australian start-up H2X says it will install one in Port Kembla to fuel its own FCEV plans, with a vision of dotting stations up and down the east coast of Australia in time.
So far, FCEV vehicles – that is, the Mirai and Nexo which are the only two commercially available FCEVs – have only been trialled in government fleets in Australia.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.