(Pocket-lint) - It's fair to say that when the Mirai – Toyota's first commercially available hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) – first appeared some five years ago, in 2014, we were taken aback by how, um, radical it was. By which we mean we didn't like the design whatsoever, irrelevant of its well-intended eco aspirations, led by zero CO2 output.
Spring forward to 2019 at the Tokyo Motor Show, however, and the second-gen Mirai concept – which was teased just ahead of the event – was on show for real, bringing a brand new and much fresher face to the hydrogen-based solution. It's a genuinely good-looking car; far more sophisticated thanks to more sensible proportions and bolder, yet smoother lines.
Although Toyota is calling the second-gen Mirai a concept, it will actually make its way to the roads by 2020, so in that regard it's only a temporary concept vehicle – and we don't envisage too many visual changes to make it road worthy either.
The real sell of a hydrogen fuel cell car is, indeed, in its fuel type. A hydrogen tank within can be topped up at a hydrogen station, meaning no long waiting times like with electric cars. That fuel is used to power electric motors, producing zero CO2 as a result, making for an effective solution – especially as hydrogen can be farmed as a by-product of other production methods (in some cases anyway).
Problem is, hydrogen stations are rare, especially in the UK. There's a handful around the M25, so some commercial vehicles operate on this fuel, knowing they'll always be within distance. Drive a Mirai from London to Edinburgh and back and, well, you won't make it. That's the inherent issue at the moment – but something which is always improving as companies invest. In its native Japan this is far less an issue.
The second-gen Mirai brings a larger fuel tank, with a more efficient process that's supposed to give it a big bump in mileage potential. Toyota is saying a 30 per cent boost – but we assume you'll need to put in some 25 per cent more fuel each time as a result. A 300 mile range on fuel is bolstered by the in-board battery, giving a potential range that's closer to 400 miles. Nothing else that's emissions free can say that, showing there's still worth in the FCEV idea yet.
The interior takes benefit of modern design, including a 12.3-inch centre display and digital instrument panel on the driver's side. There's also five seats rather than four, as per the outgoing model, thanks to a brand new modular platform meaning the fuel cell placement doesn't get in the way of the rear middle seat.
For now, whether you think hydrogen fuel cell will take off as an idea or not – and Toyota is using a lot of FCEVs at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to show there's scope in the idea – at least you can look through our galleries of Mirai concept pictures and say "I'd buy one of those" on design basis alone.
The second-generation Toyota Mirai will launch in 2020 in Japan, followed by North America and Europe.