- toyota's 2021 mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car will be a rear-wheel-drive lexus-styled sedan with 400-plus miles of range.
- the new model will be a few inches longer and wider than the lexus gs.
- cost and on-sale dates weren't revealed, but expect a hike in the current $58,500 price (which does include $15,000 or three years of free refueling, whichever comes first).
last night toyota unveiled the 2021 mirai "concept," a production-ready preview of the car that'll be unveiled later this year at the tokyo auto show. the mirai, toyota's hydrogen fuel-cell sedan, is going in a new direction—less prius, more lexus, with rear-wheel drive and a targeted range of more than 400 miles. there are more than 6000 examples of the current mirai on the road in california and hawaii, and the new car signifies toyota's commitment to continue developing the technology. the hydrogen advantage is simple: ev propulsion with fossil-fuel range and five-minute refueling.
hydrogen's biggest challenges, as always, are cost and infrastructure. the current mirai's storage tanks operate at 10,000 psi and require about enough carbon fiber to build a spare aventador. the new one might be more economical in that respect, though the move upmarket implies that we could reasonably expect a hike in the current model’s $58,500 price (which includes three years or $15,000 worth of fueling). more power is also a given, with the switch to rear-wheel-drive promising a newfound emphasis on performance. the 2021 mirai's footprint makes it a few inches longer and a couple inches wider than a lexus gs.
the propulsion fundamentals, however, remain the same: hydrogen is basically another form of battery. you need electricity to crack it, but that electricity can come from a wide range of sources. thus, so can the hydrogen. got a hog farm off-gassing some tasty methane? apply electricity, break off some hydrogen, and run your mirai. no, that exact scenario probably isn’t playing out anywhere in los angeles, where the bulk of the refueling stations are, but the appeal of hydrogen mirrors that of electricity itself: there are many different means to a zero-emissions end.
jackie birdsall, senior engineer for fuel-cell development, has tested the mirai everywhere from yellowknife, canada—where, in -40 degree weather, the engineers' internal-combustion rental cars went dead but the fuel cells fired right up—to death valley. "it's not a question of whether this technology works," she says. "now we're refining it, in terms of efficiency and cost, and taking advantage of the ev performance possibilities with rear-wheel drive."
as for whether fuel cells will ultimately win out over batteries, toyota doesn't see it as an either-or scenario. "if you have a house and you can charge a car in your garage, then maybe you get an ev," birdsall says. "if you don't have access to a charger, or you cover a lot of mileage, and you want a zero-emissions vehicle, then a fuel cell car is the better option. it's not one or the other. we want to give people choices."