Toyota reveals revamped hydrogen sedan

The new Toyota Mirai model boasts longer driving range than its predecessor and completely redesigned fuel cell stack and hydrogen tanks. (Toyota handout photo)
Updated 12 October 2019

Toyota reveals revamped hydrogen sedan

TOKYO: Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled a 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 Inc.

Ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show starting on Oct. 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.”

The vehicle’s 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 percent improvement in driving range over the previous iteration’s approximately 700 km (435 miles), 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 yen ($46,500) after subsidies in Japan, the original Mirai is one of three fuel cell cars available to drivers. Hyundai Motor Co. 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.


Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

Updated 58 min 19 sec ago

Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

  • Economists fear job clustering could have a “destructive” influence on society

WASHINGTON: A new analysis of where “innovation” jobs are being created in the US paints a stark portrait of a divided economy where the industries seen as key to future growth cluster in a narrowing set of places.

Divergence in job growth, incomes and future prospects between strong-performing cities and the rest of the country is an emerging focus of political debate and economic research. It is seen as a source of social stress, particularly since President Donald Trump tapped the resentment of left-behind areas in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Research from the Brookings Institution released on Monday shows the problem cuts deeper than many thought. Even cities that have performed well in terms of overall employment growth, such as Dallas, are trailing in attracting workers in 13 industries with the most productive private sector jobs.

Between 2005 and 2017, industries such as chemical manufacturing, satellite telecommunications and scientific research flocked to about 20 cities, led by well-established standouts San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Boston and San Diego, the study found. Combined, these mostly coastal cities captured an additional 6 percent of “innovation” jobs — some 250,000 positions.

Companies in those industries tend to benefit from being close to each other, with the better-educated employees they target also attracted to urban amenities.

Brookings Institution economist Mark Muro said he fears the trend risks becoming “self-reinforcing and destructive” as the workforce separates into a group of highly productive and high-earning metro areas and everywhere else.

Even though expensive housing, high wages, and congestion have prompted some tech companies to open offices outside of Silicon Valley, those moves have not been at scale. Most US metro areas are either losing innovation industry jobs outright or gaining no share, Muro wrote.

Over this decade, “a clear hierarchy of economic performance based on innovation capacity had become deeply entrenched,” Muro and co-author Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in the report. Across the 13 industries they studied, workers in the upper echelon of cities were about 50 percent more productive than in others.

For much of the post-World War Two period labor was more mobile, and the types of industries driving the economy did not cluster so intensely, a trend that started reversing around 1980.

Concerns that the US is separating effectively into two economies has sparked support for localized efforts to spread the benefits of economic growth.

The Federal Reserve has flagged it as a possible risk to overall growth, and some of the presidential candidates running for office in 2020 have rolled out proposals to address it. One aim of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imports from China and elsewhere is to revive ailing areas of the country.