Tesla, watch out for the new Toyota Mirai

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Now in its second generation, the Japanese automaker looks to take the vehicle upmarket, shifting its image from the average Joe's Prius to the more luxurious Lexus GS. As before it'll be exclusively hydrogen-powered, but the automaker is targeting a 30-percent increase in range from the current vehicle through a combination of boosted fuel-cell efficiency and a larger hydrogen storage capacity. There are substantial upgrades to Toyota's fuel cell technology that powers it, liberating a 30 percent range boost for the second-generation auto to give it a theoretical maximum of 650km from a single tank of hydrogen. What this means is a sportier driving feel with particular emphasis on handling, which is a good thing to have in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota projects that fuel cell electric technology will one day be as common as the company's hybrid electric technology.

While much of the buzz in the alternative fuel world is about battery-powered electric vehicles, some brands are continuing to develop other... alternative alternatives. The new model will also have a rear-wheel-drive instead of a front-wheel drive. The dash is largely clear of buttons as numerous usual controls have been moved to an 12.3-inch touchscreen display.

"Unfortunately, despite years of education efforts, hydrogen cars are still a mystery to most people", said Jackie Birdsall, a senior engineer at Toyota's R&D center in Gardena, California.

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The new edition of the Mirai should hit the market in Japan, North America and Europe by 2020.

The next Mirai, it seems from first look, is much closer to what the Mirai should have been all along-a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan that mates something akin to Tesla-rivaling performance with Toyota's sustainability ambitions and expertise in fuel cells. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) offer significantly greater range than EVs and produce only water as a by-product. Sales may be expanded to some states in the Northeast and Northwest, pending their buildup of hydrogen station networks.

Improvements have been made to shrink the size of hydrogen fuel tanks and reduce the amount of costly platinum needed for fuel cell stacks. It uses an updated powertrain, can store more hydrogen and features all the technological advancements of the age, including a 12.3-inch touchscreen and a JBL sound system. Except full details to be revealed at a later date or during its public debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.

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