Hydrogen power: Toyota takes on Tesla with alternative fuel

The 2021 Toyota Mirai is built on a rear-wheel drive platform

The 2021 Toyota Mirai is built on a rear-wheel drive platform

This makes the Mirai one of the "greenest" vehicles on the planet, hence choosing Greensboro for the unveiling.

Built on the same GA-L platform that underpins the Lexus LS 500 and LC 500, the athletic DNA is very much on show in the new Toyota Mirai - which is wholly different from the Prius-like first-generation Mirai. Although we haven't seen it in person, we think the Mirai embodies some of the same great proportions as Lexus sedans of the 1990s-particularly the GS.

The interior of the concept gets a massive update, as well. In front of the driver is a standard eight-inch digital combination meter and available digital rear-view mirror that displays images from a rear camera. It has room inside for five passengers - one more than the current model - and sports racier 20-inch wheels. That suggests around 405 miles, versus the current 312 miles the EPA rates the existing Mirai as good for. But it says the system, including the fuel cell stack, has been entirely redesigned and offers increased hydrogen storage. The cabin should be more luxurious too, the automaker promises, not to mention quieter on the road.

Toyota, which loses money on the current Mirai, hasn't said when it plans to break even with a future version.

The inherent advantage of a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain is its non-reliance on the grid, which so often is the defining aspect of the argument about how clean battery electric vehicles actually are from a well-to-wheel perspective.

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"We wanted something that's fun to drive". Instead, the FCEV driver simply fills the tank in about five minutes, not much longer than millions do every day with conventional vehicles.

Toyota's bet - that it can position a hydrogen sedan for more of a mass market - flies in the face of rivals wagering on putting batteries into the bigger-bodied vehicles consumers are buying.

At its core, the Mirai is an electric vehicle, but it never needs to be plugged in to recharge. Toyota projects that fuel cell electric technology will one day be as common as the company's hybrid electric technology.

In terms of reliability, Toyota's fuel cell senior engineer Jacke Birdsall says that the auto has been tested in -40 degree weather, from the cold Yellowknife city in Canada to the hot temperatures of Death Valley.

Although it couldn't offer confirmation of Mirai availability for Australia, Toyota said "it's certainly a product we're putting our hands up for should it be made available for our market".

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