A prototype of the new Toyota Mirai at a media briefing in Tokyo. Its predecessor was one of three fuel cell cars available to consumers; the others were from Hyundai and Honda.
Tokyo - Second-generation model boasts longer driving range, completely redesigned fuel cell stack and hydrogen tanks
Toyota Motor unveiled a completely-redesigned hydrogen-powered fuel cell sedan on Friday in its latest attempt to revive demand for the niche technology that it hopes will become mainstream.
Japan's biggest automaker has been developing fuel-cell vehicles for more than two decades, but the technology has been eclipsed by the rapid rise of rival battery-powered electric vehicles promoted by the likes of Tesla.
Ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show starting on October 24, Toyota unveiled a prototype of the new hydrogen sedan built on the same platform as its luxury Lexus brand's LS coupe. The new Mirai model boasts longer driving range than its predecessor and completely redesigned fuel cell stack and hydrogen tanks, the company said.
"We wanted to make a car that people really want to buy, not just because it's an eco car," Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the new Mirai, said at the unveiling.
"We wanted something that's fun to drive."
Its sporty redesign with longer wheelbase and lower-slung chassis is a marked departure from the first-generation Mirai, which looks like a bulked-up Prius hybrid.
The new car also has a 30 per cent improvement in driving range over the previous iteration's approximately 700km, according to the company.
Tanaka said the latest Mirai would cost less to make than its predecessor, because of a shift to mass production. The current model is mostly assembled by hand.
Costing consumers about ¥5 million ($46,500) after subsidies in Japan, the original Mirai is one of three fuel cell cars available to consumers. Hyundai Motor sells the Nexo, while Honda Motor leases out the Clarity.
Toyota has sold fewer than 10,000 of the Mirai, a fuel cell sedan it touted as a game changer at its launch five years ago. By contrast, Tesla sold 25,000 of battery-powered Model S sedans in its first year and a half.
Toyota declined to disclose a price for the model and said it would be available from late next year in Japan, North America and Europe.