2021 Toyota Mirai Concept Revealed: Ugly Duckling Becomes Beautiful Swan

For 2021, Toyota is wadding up the "design" of its fuel cell electric Mirai and starting fresh. Almost nothing at all is expected to carry over from the current-generation car, which is welcome news for those of us who have regarded the current Toyota Mirai's visage in much the same way Perseus did the mythological monster Medusa. And perhaps the internal mandate that super-efficient Toyotas be wrapped in hideous sheetmetal has at last been rescinded. I mean, remove your safety blinders and look at this long-hood, short-deck, four-door coupe. The concept version of the 2021 Mirai pictured here is beautiful. It looks for all the world like a Lexus relieved of its predator grille.

Lexus Bones?

Indeed, the next Mirai will ride on an as yet unspecified rear-drive platform. Its 114.9-inch wheelbase slots comfortably between those of the Lexus LC (113.0 inches) and LS (116.9 inches) variants of the TNGA-L platform. Those cars seem about as wide as the '21 Mirai model we were shown in advance of its Tokyo Motor Show public debut. Or perhaps it will share the new electric-optimized e-TNGA platform, which is slated to underpin 10 global models that will begin hitting the market next year. That platform is designed to accommodate front-drive, dual-motor AWD, or the Mirai's new rear-wheel-drive setup. This change is aimed at boosting the car's dynamic driving appeal. Engaging dynamics and beautiful design are but two of the changes Toyota is making to help the Mirai earn its $60,000-plus price tag, thereby hopefully broadening its customer base beyond the current crop of planet-savior/design-martyrs. Why not just badge it a Lexus? Because the Toyota brand has traditionally pioneered hybrid and fuel cell technology.

Handles Like No Other Toyota

The longer, lower, wider Mirai, we're assured, will set a new benchmark for Toyota sedans in terms of dynamics. Rear drive and a broader stance are two steps in the right direction, and a third is the availability of 20-inch wheels and tires. We're also told the next Mirai will boast improved aerodynamics, an even quieter cabin, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a 14-speaker JBL sound system, and five-passenger seating when it goes on sale in late 2020. One thing that may not return to the standard equipment list: complimentary hydrogen refueling (up to $15,000).

400-Mile Range

Moving to the larger premium rear-drive architecture will add weight, but improvements to the next generation of fuel cell stack and a slightly higher-capacity tank are expected to extend the 2021 Toyota Mirai's driving range by 30 percent (the current generation is rated for 312 miles). We expect more specific information regarding the efficiency improvements, mass, dimensions, etc. to be released later in the year.

30,000 Per Year!

To date, Toyota has sold just 6,000 Mirais in the U.S. since its 2015 launch. Or more accurately, leased almost 6,000 Mirais in Southern California (less than 1 percent have chosen the purchase option). Japan has been the Mirai's second best sales market, with Europe in a distant third. An aggressive global sales goal of 30,000 Mirais per year is based on a drastic sales redistribution. Japan and Europe now have way more hydrogen fueling stations than we have in the U.S., and hence those regions are expected to get way more Mirais. (That's why the new Mirai is a sedan and not an SUV or crossover.) Many new hydrogen stations are poised to open in the northeastern U.S., as soon as some Hindenberg-informed legacy laws prohibiting hydrogen in tunnels or on bridges can be amended. When that happens, Mirai sales will begin in that region. And all hydrogen stations are becoming more user-friendly, with fewer of them suffering the "icing" problems we occasionally experienced with our long-term 2016 Mirai.

Toyota's fuel cell technology is clearly maturing, and for EV-buyers that don't have access to a home charging setup, five-minute hydrogen refueling is way more attractive than the available battery charging options. Now it's a race to develop the refueling infrastructure quickly enough to assuage buyer range anxieties so that production scale economies can bring fuel cell vehicle pricing down to where the general public can afford it. But when that happens, please, Toyota, don't revert to hideous design.

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Autos Magazine: 2021 Toyota Mirai Concept Revealed: Ugly Duckling Becomes Beautiful Swan
2021 Toyota Mirai Concept Revealed: Ugly Duckling Becomes Beautiful Swan
Autos Magazine
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