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Toyota Launches the Redesigned Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan, Reaffirming the Company's Commitment to Hydrogen Power

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【Summary】On Wednesday, Toyota Motor Corp launched the completely redesigned hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and its available from Toyota dealers in Japan starting today. The redesigned Toyota Mirai sedan was first unveiled as a concept vehicle at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. At the event, Toyota provided an early glimpse of the advances it has made with the new Mirai, including technical design improvements, a longer range and a more spacious interior.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 09, 2020 11:45 AM PT
Toyota Launches the Redesigned Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan, Reaffirming the Company's Commitment to Hydrogen Power
The redesigned Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedan runs on hydrogen.

With most of the auto industry busy working on battery-powered vehicles, Toyota Motor Corp continues to develop fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen. On Wednesday, the automaker launched the completely redesigned Mirai sedan fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and its available from Toyota vehicle dealers starting today.

The redesigned and larger Toyota Mirai sedan was first unveiled as a concept vehicle at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. At the event, Toyota provided an early glimpse of the advances it has made with the new Mirai, including technical design improvements, a longer range and a more spacious interior.

Although fuel cell technology shows promise in the auto industry, especially for long-haul trucks, which can carry more hydrogen, the world's automakers, with the expectation of Toyota and South Korean automaker Hyundai, have opted not to pursue fuel cell technology and are instead focused on battery-powered models.

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FCEVs run on pure hydrogen, which is stored in pressurized tanks. When hydrogen is combined with a fuel cell, a reaction occurs that produces electricity to power an electric powertrain. ECEVs produce zero emissions and their batteries never need recharging. The only byproduct from converting the hydrogen into usable electricity is water.

The new Mirai even includes a switch that enables the driver to expel the water at will. It also includes for the first time a navigation system-linked feature that enables the water to be expelled on specific roads. Toyota said this is useful if the driver forgets to operate the switch or does not want the water to be expelled in certain places such as an indoor parking garage.

The first-generation Mirai launched in 2014 as one of the world's only hydrogen powered vehicles. However the first Mirai's were only produced in limited numbers and were only on sale in California. As a result, many drivers that wanted one could not buy or lease one.

Toyota is offering two versions of the redesigned fuel cell Mirai, a standard "G" grade and a higher end "G" grade. Both grades offer a larger interior with ample and comfortable rear seat space. There is also an "Executive Package," available, which offers enhanced comfort more like a luxury vehicle.

The Mirai FCEV is built on Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA), which is a modular platform that underpins many new Toyota and Lexus models. TNGA platforms accommodate different vehicles including front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations.

The platforms were developed as part of a company-wide effort to streamline production lower costs. The platform which was first introduced in 2015, underpins more than 50% of Toyota vehicles sold worldwide and is expected to underpin about 80% by 2023.

The TNGA represents a new way of building vehicles at Toyota. Among the changes are lowering the height of the hood, lowering the center of gravity and implementing design changes to improve driving performance. The lower hood height of Toyota's TNGA models offers better forward visibility. 

Toyota says vehicles built on the TNGA costs 20% less to produce while offering increased chassis stiffness, lower centers of gravity for better handling. Each platform is based on a standardized seat height that allows for sharing of key interior components such as steering systems, shifters, pedals, seat frames and airbags. 

Toyota is also simplifying its lineup of transmissions, hybrid systems, and all-wheel drive systems across its model lineup.

Toyota said it received feedback from Mirai drivers requesting improvements, such as a larger seating capacity and longer cruising range. The automaker delivered that with the new version.

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Earlier this year, Toyota said that one of its top priorities was to improve the efficiency of its fuel cell powertrains. The automaker targeted a 30% increase in the Mirai's range through improvements to the fuel cell system and the use of larger hydrogen tanks, the company said. The first-generation fuel cell Mirai has an approximate driving range of 650 km (404 miles). Range is now 466 to 528 miles between hydrogen fill ups, depending the model. 

For second-generation Mirai, Toyota also moved the fuel cell stack and other power components to the engine bay similar to gas-powered vehicles, while the high-output motor and drive battery pack has been moved to the rear. There are now three high-pressure hydrogen tanks without taking up any more cabin space for passengers.

The placement of the FC stack including the hydrogen fuel tank achieves an optimal 50:50 weight distribution between the front and the rear, according to Toyota.

Toyota added extruded aluminum members for the stack frame to protect the forward-mounted fuel cell stack in the event of a collision. The new unit is more compact and includes rigidity and energy absorbing parts located at the front of the stack frame to further protect it from damage.

Toyota said the new Mirai sedan will serve as a launch point for creating a "hydrogen-based society of the future." Toyota also plans to use new fuel cell (FC) systems in trucks and buses.

How Fuel Cell Vehicles Work

Instead of relying on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack to power electric motors, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles combine hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity. The hydrogen travels to the fuel cell stack where it goes through a chemical reaction with oxygen in the air, creating electricity. 

The electricity produced in the fuel cell is used to charge the battery and power the vehicle's electric motor(s). The hydrogen tanks can be refilled at a hydrogen filling station in just a few minutes. Some gas stations in California, where the first Mirai went on sale, have already started adding hydrogen filling pumps alongside their gasoline pumps. 

Toyota also offers an optional external power feeding device for the Mirai that can supply high output electric power to homes and electrical products in an emergency, such as a power outage. The external power supply outlet is installed in a compartment located under the hood with a maximum output of 9 kW. 

The accessory power outlets inside the cabin can still be used even when the external DC power supply system is operational.

There are only a handful fuel cell vehicles on the market along with the Mirai in the U.S. Hyundai unveiled its NEXO fuel cell SUV in Jan 2018 at CES, while the Honda Clarity FCEV was available in select California markets since 2017. 

In 2018, German automaker Daimler introduced the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell crossover in Europe, which is only partially powered by hydrogen. The GLC F-Cell combines hydrogen fuel cell and battery technologies in a plug-in hybrid setup.

In the U.S. the outgoing Toyota Mirai model is only available through authorized Toyota Mirai Dealers in California and Hawaii to residents who are living or working in proximity to a hydrogen fueling station.

The Mirai starts at 7,100,00 yen (US$68,079) in Japan. U.S. pricing was not released yet.

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