The Toyota Mirai is already available to order in Japan, and will arrive in Europe and the US in summer 2015. The exterior styling was revealed at the LA motor show, and the European-spec interior will be shown at the Geneva motor show in March 2015.
Toyota says the showroom price for Western markets has yet to be decided, partly because it does not know what, if any, government subsidies will be available for the Mirai. It has suggested that it will cost around €66,000 plus local taxes in Europe. This will work out at an on-sale price of around £60,000 in the UK.
It is a standalone five-door, four-seat hatchback model that offers a boot capacity of around 360 litres. Final specification for Europe is not yet confirmed, but it is expected to come with climate control, a rear parking camera, satellite-navigation, LED headlights and man-made leather upholstery. The safety kit is likely to include a pre-crash system, an adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-change assist.
Initial demand for the Mirai has meant Toyota has announced its plans to increase production over the coming years. The company will produce around 700 Mirais this year, followed by around 2000 in 2016 and approximately 3000 in 2017.
The increase has come as a result of initial sales success in Japan - around 1500 orders were placed in the first month of the car being available. The increase in production is also to cope with the planned launch in the USA and Europe later this year.
The Mirai is the culmination of two decades of research from Toyota. The production version of the saloon car, which seats four and offers a range of 300 miles from its twin high-pressue hydrogen tanks (700bar/70MPa) stored under the floor, was revealed at the recent Paris motor show.
The hydrogen tanks fuel a fuel cell, which powers a permanent magnet electric motor to drive the front wheels. The Mirai emits only water vapour at the tailpipe. Power for the system is understood to be around 135bhp, Toyota making comparisons to a typical petrol-engined family saloon, and a refuel of the hydrogen tanks takes around three minutes.
The most recent concept version was at the Tokyo motor show in 2013, and the production version has stayed remarkably similar to it.
Toyota believes it can popularise hydrogen as a fuel just as it has pioneered hybrid technology in the past 16 years. However, there is a small but very vocal opposition in the US to the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel because much of today’s hydrogen is made by ‘steam reforming’ methane gas. Tesla boss Elon Musk has already called fuel cells “a load of rubbish”.
The name Mirai means 'future' in Japanese. In a speech announcing the name of the car, Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said: “We are at a turning point in automotive history. A turning point where people will embrace a new, environmentally friendly car that is a pleasure to drive.
“A turning point where a four-door sedan can travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, can be refuelled in under five minutes and emit only water vapour. A turning point that represents many years and countless hours of work by our team to create a car that redefines the industry.
"All of us at Toyota believe in a future that will be safer, greener and easier for everyone. We imagined a world filled with vehicles that would diminish our dependence on oil and reduce harm to the environment. It was a bold, but inspiring goal and today it is a reality.
“Our fuel cell vehicle runs on hydrogen that can be made from virtually anything, even garbage. It has a fuel cell that creates enough electricity to power a house for about a week.
“This is a car that lets you have it all with no compromises. As a test driver, I knew this new fuel cell vehicle had to be truly fun to drive – and believe me, it is. It has a low centre of gravity, which gives it very dynamic handling.
“After surviving millions of miles on the test track and 10 years of testing on public roads in freezing cold and scorching heat, after passing extensive crash tests, and after working with local governments and researchers around the world to help make sure it is easy and convenient to refuel, we are ready to deliver."
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