Toyota is one of the few companies trying to convert hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) into a viable alternative. Its first production FCEV, Mirai, was sold in limited quantities (11,000 cars were sold by September 2020) at a few locations from where you could get your hands on it. Now, the company has announced a better second-generation model, which is cheaper, better looking, and more efficient. But the practicality of the car still rests on access to hydrogen.
The new Mirai looks less like a Prius than its predecessor, and much more like the Lexus LS, as it is built on the same platform. But Toyota also wanted to address concerns that were not previously exciting, or spectacular, to entice buyers. The first model was loaded with tech but looked like a car designed by aliens for computers. When you are driving luxury car money – almost luxury EV money – you need to justify the price.
Mirai’s deputy chief engineer Ryotaro Shimizu said the company was looking for a more “emotional design” for the new model. On the nose at the side of the massive forward grille (required for the fuel cell to breathe) are bizarre vertical air inlets. The car is a few inches shorter and wider, and about six inches longer than its predecessor. Much of that space has been used for better legroom and comfort, and to make room for a fifth passenger. Depending on the specification, it ships with 19- or 20-inch wheels, making everything look slightly more aggressive and sporty than the 17-inch wheels on its predecessor.
Inside, the biggest change beyond the radical, Lexus-esque interior is that the primary display is no longer housed in the central console. Driving the first mirror (and the current Prius, for that matter) is all you need to look far, off the road to see a GPS display. The screen is now placed next to the instrument cluster and is angled to suit the driver, making it very easy to use.