Toyota Focuses on Hydrogen-Powered Auto

But the automaker hasn’t given up on creating electric cars.

October 15, 2019

HONG KONG—While top carmakers around the globe race to build the ideal plug-in electric car, Toyota has unveiled its newest version of a hydrogen-powered vehicle, doubling down on its bet that fuel cells will help secure the company’s future as the industry comes under pressure to slash carbon emissions, reports CNN.

Toyota has revealed that its re-designed Mirai, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric car, has "significantly greater range, improved driving performance and an elegant, sporty design that offers increased passenger room and comfort."

The new hydrogen-powered sedan is built on the same platform as Toyota's luxury Lexus brand's LS sedan and LC coupe. It runs on compressed hydrogen gas that is combined in a fuel cell with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce electricity that is then stored in a battery. The only byproduct of that process is water, meaning hydrogen vehicles don't expel harmful emissions.

Despite the focus on hydrogen, Toyota is still bullish on electric cars. In June, Toyota moved forward by five years its goal of having electrified vehicles account for roughly half of sales. But it still lags behind other companies, such as market leader Tesla and global rival Volkswagen. Toyota sold only 1,000 electric cars last year, according to LMC Automotive, while Tesla shipped 220,000.

The latest Mirai has a revamped fuel cell stack that can store more hydrogen. That means the car can drive 30% farther than the previous generation, which had a range of of 312 miles on a full battery. Toyota did not say how long the new Mirai will take to charge, but the previous model took 3-5 minutes. The Mirai is scheduled for launch in late 2020, initially in Japan, North America and Europe.

For more on hydrogen-powered vehicles, see “Fuel’s Errand?” in the October issue of NACS Magazine.