• By The Financial District


Toyota Motor Corp. launched its second-generation Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, touting its improved fuel efficiency and longer range as compared to the original model that was the world's first mass-produced FCV, according to Kyodo News.

The five-seater Mirai has three tanks to hold hydrogen fuel which is used to generate power for its electric motor, giving it up to 850 kilometers of range, roughly 30 percent more than the first-generation, four-seater sedan that can travel 650 km on its two tanks. Toyota launched the Mirai in 2014.

The major Japanese automaker is stepping up its promotion of FCVs with the recent launch of the upgraded Mirai, boosting its output capacity to around 30,000 units a year.

The suggested base model retail price is set at 7.1 million yen ($68,000), but the automaker said some 1.4 million yen in subsidies and tax breaks will be available to Mirai buyers. The original model was priced at 7.4 million yen.

"The new Mirai is a car that serves as a starting point for the full-fledged use of hydrogen," Toyota Chief Technology Officer Masahiko Maeda said. "We will develop and offer a wider lineup (of products), ranging from hybrid and plug-in-hybrid to electric and fuel cell vehicles," he said.

FCVs are powered by electricity generated through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen and do not emit carbon dioxide.

They are touted as a green alternative to conventional gasoline cars but still face hurdles to achieving widespread take up given the limited range of vehicle choices and the relatively small network of hydrogen refueling stations. Toyota's Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. has launched its own hydrogen-powered vehicle, the Clarity fuel cell car.

According to Toyota, the refueling of compressed hydrogen takes about three minutes. An eco-friendly car, the Mirai has an air purification system that filters the air it uses to generate electricity for driving. The sedan is also designed to provide electricity on occasions such as natural disasters, the company said.

The momentum for a less emissions-intensive Japan appears to be gaining traction with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledging to achieve carbon neutrality, or slashing carbon emissions to zero on a net basis, by 2050, a goal also sought by the European Union and Britain. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has stated his intention to curb carbon emissions as well.

Toytoa's Maeda said companies must cooperate in order to create a society where hydrogen is widely used, and that lowering costs is essential to that end. Nearly 90 companies, including Toyota, launched an association earlier this week to promote the wider use of hydrogen.