Toyota has positioned itself as the harbinger of future technology with its two popular products, namely the Prius and Mirai. While the Prius has cemented a place for itself in the automotive world as the world’s first full-hybrid car, Mirai is the champion of the future, showcasing to owners and prospective buyers that fuel-cell powered vehicles will soon be the norm.

Toyota has been selling the Mirai since 2014. Driven by a 4JM fuel-cell powered 152hp electric motor, Mirai does away with the hassle of charging, swapping batteries, and the increased kerb weight associated with EVs. It is also the most fuel-efficient HFCV (EPA-rated) with the longest driving range. All it needed was a design that conformed to the current sensibilities of consumers.

The 2020 Toyota Mirai is no longer an awkward-looking, novelty product. It has the potential to slot in and redefine the sedan segment with its advanced powertrain.

“I want customers to say ‘I chose the Mirai because I simply wanted this car, and it just happens to be an FCEV.’ We will continue our development work focusing on that feeling, and we hope that with the new Mirai we will be a leader in helping to realize a hydrogen energy society,” says Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Mirai project.

With the year 2020 almost upon us, Toyota has redesigned the Mirai for its next decade of sales. The car looks more palatable, gaining in length and wheelbase over its outgoing counterpart. The old Mirai’s styling was quite controversial, with its oddly-shaped silhouette dividing opinions. Fast forward to 2020, and the new Mirai wouldn’t look out of place parked next to Lexus sedans.

It’s decidedly more conventional, yet retains a semblance to its discontinued namesake. More LED lighting, more electronics, and increased range are just some of the new Mirai’s takeaways. The big news is that Toyota is claiming a 30 percent increase in driving range for the second-generation HFCV. The current Mirai already promises a range of 502km. A 30 percent increase means that we are looking at an impressive driving range of close to 650km.

The big draw for fuel-cell powertrains is that the only by-products of their power cycle are water vapour and a little heat. With a light and advanced enough onboard hydrolysis setup, water vapour can be condensed to extract hydrogen which can again be used to fuel the motor. Ideally, an HFCV is a self-sustaining automobile. However, it is currently out of scope of commercial production.

Based on the Lexus LS and LC platforms, the 2020 Toyota Mirai is now rear-wheel-driven.

Why is Toyota still marketing alternate propulsion that is way too advanced to offer on a mass scale? The costs of developing indigenous fuel-cell propulsion motors, setting up a hydrogen refilling infrastructure, and encouraging consumers to shift away from current IC cars and EVs entail massive investments, recruiting, and a conscious shift in design, development, and production techniques. This is the reason most automakers are shying away from entering the fuel-cell market.

However, Toyota is undeterred. “We have worked to make a car that customers will want to drive all the time, a car that has an emotional and attractive design and the kind of dynamic and responsive performance that can bring a smile to the driver’s face,” says Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Mirai, in a press release.

Mirai is Toyota’s message to the global automotive sector that HFCVs are indeed viable alternatives to fossil-fuel driven and battery-electric vehicles. Now that it looks much more appealing than before, the Mirai may well spark a transition to the clean, hassle-free, and reliable powertrains Toyota is seeking to propagate. The Japanese automaker will debut the 2020 Mirai at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.