Toyota remains hot for hybrids and more are on the way, but the Japanese automaker remains committed to a future that includes fuel-cell vehicles. Despite the buzz around battery-powered vehicles, Toyota has taken the wraps of the 2021 Mirai, a complete revamp of the brand’s current fuel-cell sedan.
- At present, Toyota has a total of seven hybrid models in its U.S. lineup.
- The 2019 Mirai sedan is front-wheel drive and comes with a hydrogen fuel-cell powertain.
- Hydrogen refueling infrastructure remains one of the biggest hurdles to fuel-cell vehicles.
- The 2021 Mirai moves to a larger rear-wheel drive platform.
- Toyota will officially debut the 2021 RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid during the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2019.
Toyota has a warm place in its heart for hybrids, though it’s staying true to fuel-cell vehicles, too. That’s the message the Japanese automaker conveyed during a recent media event called “E-Volution,” held in Greensboro, North Carolina.
On hand was the entire range of electrified Toyota products, including the Prius, Prius Prime, Corolla Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid, and RAV4 Hybrid. Also present was the 2019 Mirai, the brand’s front-wheel drive and awkwardly-styled fuel cell sedan. The Mirai is only available to buy or lease in California, where there is a (modest) hydrogen refueling network. At the moment, Toyota says there are 38 hydrogen fuel stations throughout the state.
The 2021 Toyota Mirai adopts a much more premium exterior design than the previous version. (Photo: Nick Kurczewski)
That isn’t stopping Toyota’s next push in fuel-cell technology, despite the general consensus that battery-powered electric vehicles are the future of the industry. The 2021 Mirai, shown in concept form ahead of its upcoming reveal at the Tokyo Motor Show, is physical proof Toyota isn’t giving up on fuel cells.
Longer, lower, and wider than the model it replaces, the 2021 Mirai is switching to a rear-wheel drive platform that will be shared with other Toyota- and Lexus-branded automobiles. The swept-back shape has more than a hint of Supra sports car in its nose, some Lexus in the front grille, not to mention a lot of Audi A7 in the gentle curve of the greenhouse and the car’s tapering tail. In terms of visual transformations, the next Mirai is a quantum leap forward from the boxy, angular, and downright bizarre exterior of the current model.
A tapered tail and wide tail-lamps give the 2021 Mirai a hint of Audi sedan design. (Photo: Nick Kurczewski)
At 195.8 inches long, the 2021 Mirai is about the size of the Lexus ES luxury sedan. Toyota stated the goal was to increase overall driving range by about 30 percent, as compared to the 2019 Mirai, nudging range slightly beyond 200 miles for every tank of hydrogen used. Refueling is included for three years, or up to $15,000 with the current Mirai lease offer in California, and that will remain the case with the next model.
Inside, the new Mirai has a dashboard includes a 12.3-inch touch screen for the infotainment system, a 14-speaker JBL audio system, and seating for a total of five occupants. The current Mirai, which has a rear console that separates the rear seat, allows room for only four onboard.
The 2019 Mirai, seen here, is only available to buy or lease in California. (Photo: Nick Kurczewski)
So, what’s it like to drive? We’ll let you know once Toyota tosses us the keys! For now, the Mirai technically remains a concept ahead of its upcoming introduction next year, as a 2021 model. We did take some time to drive the 2019 Mirai, and the experience is similar to what you’d find in a near-silent electric car.
Power from the 151-horsepower hydrogen fuel cell is fine for city driving, and the powertrain itself emits an intriguing whirring noise when you punch the gas pedal. For a car that technically costs close to $60,000, however, the interior materials and design of the 2019 Mirai have too much automotive DNA shared with a mainstream Camry. In comparison, the cabin of the 2021 Mirai appears more worthy of this fuel-cell sedan’s premium price.
The cabin of the upcoming 2021 Mirai is more of what you’d expect for a car that will likely cost around $60,000. (Photo: Nick Kurczewski)
While Toyota didn’t confirm pricing for the new model, an easy search online reveals a 2019 Mirai lease as costing approximately $389 per month, with $2,499 due at signing. This doesn’t include any state or federal rebates and incentives. Globally, Toyota says it intends to sell 30,000 Mirai sedans. For reference, Mirai sales in the U.S. last year topped out at only 1,700 units. A volume-seller it’s not, but Toyota representatives said sales will eventually include northeastern states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Heading to the L.A. Auto Show is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid, the newest addition to Toyota’s range of hybrid-powered vehicles. (Photo: Toyota)
RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid on the way
Having the briefest of cameo appearances during the Mirai-focused media event was the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid, which is due to appear at the L.A. Auto Show. Toyota only offered a photo of the compact SUV, no technical details or pricing information was given.
Based on some educated guesswork, chances are good the RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid will have an electric-only driving range of 20-30 miles, before the gas-fed four-cylinder engine kicks in to take over driving duties. The 2020 RAV4 Hybrid starts at $29,000, so it’s fair to assume the Plug-In Hybrid will be priced slightly higher, possibly around $32,000 to start.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Toyota basically kick-started the hybrid market in the U.S. with the introduction of the first Prius sedan back in 2001. The 2019 Mirai failed to do the same for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, but perhaps the 2021 Mirai will kick-start the next genre.