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Hydrogen Toyota taxis have topped 1 million miles

Toyota Mirai 1,000,000 miles London

A fleet of 27 hydrogen-powered Toyota taxis has covered a cumulative one million miles, with many more to come.

After a successful two-car trial in 2015, Green Tomato Cars took on a further 25 Toyota Mirais for private hire in London. And the company will add 25 more of the hydrogen taxis to its fleet this month. Toyota Mirai 1,000,000 miles London

The new Mirais will make for the largest zero-emissions passenger fleet in the United Kingdom.

Over the course of one million miles, the original 27 cars have saved 206 tonnes of CO2. That’s 7.6 tonnes per car, or around four times each Mirai’s own weight (calculation based on the average 120.1 g/km CO2 emitted by new cars).

Green Tomato put the Mirai to work as its Zero Emission Executive vehicle. Around 2,000 corporate clients have been served, carrying more than 80,000 passengers. Each car covers around 120 miles per day, with each journey averaging between eight and 10 miles.

Toyota Mirai 1,000,000 miles London

“We’ve been really impressed by the performance of our Mirai fleet and are very proud to have clocked up the magic one million zero-emission miles in these unique cars,” said Jonny Goldstone, founder and CEO of Green Tomato Cars.

“Our passengers love them because it means they can travel as responsibly as possible, and so do our drivers. Running costs are comparable with a Prius and re-fuelling takes the same time as a conventional petrol car. We’re rolling out the next 25 Mirais onto our fleet right now and hopefully there will be still more to come.”

Toyota Mirai 1,000,000 miles London

Overall, there are 137 Mirais on UK roads, with the overall mileage figure nearing two million miles. However, there are just 11 suitable filling stations at present, with each refining hydrogen via water electrolysis on-site. A new station is due to open at Gatwick soon.

The slow uptake hasn’t stopped Toyota from continuing its journey with hydrogen power, however. Its next-generation concept for the Mirai will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, and boasts some much-needed extra style.

Opinion: the Copen GR Sport is the sports car we need

Daihatsu Copen GR Sport

Life is full of disappointments. Like discovering an absence of Chomp bars in a Heroes variety pack. Or arriving at a pub with locked doors after a 12-mile walk. Or realising that there’s little chance of buying a Copen GR Sport.

Toyota Gazoo Racing – a company most famous for making the Yaris appealing – has turned its attention to the tiny Daihatsu Copen.

The opening paragraph atop the press release is wonderfully Japanese: “A new lightweight feel sports car combining the joy of the open air with the Toyota Gazoo Racing delight of handling at will.“

In other words, Gazoo Racing’s wizards have focused on body rigidity and suspension tuning by adding a front brace, changing the shape of the centre brace and tweaking the spring rate.

Further upgrades include tuned electric power steering, aerodynamic tweaks, BBS alloys and Recaro seats. Basically, the kind of things you’d demand from a lightweight sports car.

The intercooled, turbocharged 660cc engine is unchanged, and you have a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed CVT with paddle-shifter.

Sounds perfect, especially when you consider that it costs the equivalent of £17,500 – about the same as a mid-range Ford Fiesta. At least it would be perfect if we could buy the blimmin‘ thing.

‘Handling at will’

Copen GR Sport

But you can’t, because the Copen GR Sport is reserved for the Japanese domestic market. Boo, hiss, etc. No “handling at will” delights for you, Minasama.

Still, at least we’ve got a plentiful supply of affordable, lightweight sports cars to choose from. Only we haven’t. Not today.

Fiat’s Mazda MX-5-based MX-5 rival has bitten the dust, leaving the Mazda MX-5 as the sole flag-bearer for affordable roofless fun. These days you need to keep your top on to enjoy maximum thrills, although the Alpine A110 – the current king of the lightweights – costs upwards of £48,000.

Even the Lotus Elise – the former benchmark for cheap(ish) thrills – will set you back at least £42,000 in its rawest form. A lightweight gem for a heavyweight price.

Cast your mind back 20 years to the summer of 1999. You were spoilt for choice: Alfa Romeo Spider, BMW Z3, Caterham 21, Fiat Barchetta, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, MGF and Porsche Boxster were just some of the sports cars bugging you for your pre-millennium pound.

An unlikely Hethel-built Vauxhall sports car was also waiting in the wings, making this a golden period for wind-in-your-hair joy. Meanwhile, the Ford Puma was acting like an appetiser for the main course – serving up front-wheel-drive delights to prepare drivers for the joy of rear-wheel-drive heaven.

How many Ford Puma owners spent time on the nursery slopes before tackling the black runs offered by the preeminent sports car manufacturers?

Million-dollar paperweights

Copen GR Sport interior

Where are the affordable sports cars of 2019? Hardly a week goes by without a carmaker unveiling another unattainable and inaccessible hypercar that you can’t afford, can’t buy and can’t drive. Million-dollar paperweights destined for air-conditioned basements and the auction catalogues of 2029.

We’ve allowed this to happen. By falling at the heels of crossovers and SUVs, we’ve sent sports cars spiralling into oblivion, rendering them uneconomically unviable for many manufacturers. Christ knows how lucky we are that Renault had the balls to launch the Alpine A110, but where’s the Copen GR Sport equivalent for the UK market?

Don’t hold your breath. Even Mazda MX-5 sales are down nine percent in Europe over the first half of 2019, so it would take a brave marketing department to propose the launch of a sub £20,000 sports car in the UK. 

Saying you can have fun in a small SUV is like saying you can enjoy telephone hold music. Both are there to serve a purpose, but you wouldn’t want to spend longer than you have to enduring them. The Copen GR Sport looks like fun even when it’s standing still.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing will continue to make efforts to create attractive cars for car fans through dialogues with customers, utilising the voices of many car enthusiasts to ‘create ever-better cars‘,” says Toyota.

Open a dialogue with UK buyers, Toyota. We’re ready for your ‘ever-better cars‘.

First look: stunning hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai, due in 2020

Toyota Mirai

Toyota has revealed a concept version of its forthcoming hydrogen-powered Mirai, due to debut at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The second-generation Mirai promises a 30 percent greater range. And it’s a certified knockout to look at, too.

The Concept is apparently close to the production version, on sale in Japan next year – and in other markets soon afterwards.

2020 Mirai – ‘A car people will want to own’

Toyota Mirai

Toyota has departed from the slightly awkward design of 2014’s original Mirai with this sporty second-gen saloon. 

It has cultivated a ‘sleek and powerful look’ using ‘low lines, elegant proportions, taut bodywork and large, 20-inch diameter wheels’. Truthfully, it could easily be badged a Lexus and wear an ‘F’ on the back. The new Mirai aims to show eco-friendliness doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of style.

“I want customers to say ‘I chose the Mirai not just because it’s an FCEV, but because I simply wanted this car; it just happens to be an FCEV,” explained chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka.

“We have pursued the goal of making a car that customers will feel they want to drive all 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.”

Inside the new Mirai

Toyota Mirai

It’s no good having a drop-dead exterior without the cabin to back it up. As such, the inside of the Mirai concept borrows more than a little from stablemate Lexus. A large 12.3-inch centre display and wrap-around instrument panel blends high-tech appointment with driver focus.

Given the new Mirai’s low-slung silhouette, it might surprise you to learn that it’s more practical than the last car. It now seats five, rather than four.

Toyota is also targeting a 30 percent increase in driving range. This should be achievable through larger on-board hydrogen tanks and improvements in the fuel-cell system. The previous car was good for around 310 miles. Add 30 percent? An impressive 413 miles. Have that, Porsche Taycan.

Driving into the future

Toyota Mirai

Toyota says the Mirai will have ‘light and easy handling on winding roads’. It also focused on the car’s throttle response, particularly its linearity, and a feeling of power ‘at all speeds’.

The new Mirai is a bit of a shocker, in the best sense. The last car tried to sell us hydrogen power, with style as the sacrifice. The new car looks hugely desirable, regardless of what is under the bonnet.

Toyota builds the 10 millionth Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser 10 million sales

Toyota has built its 10 millionth Land Cruiser. The landmark vehicle rolled out of the factory at the end of August.

Since its launch as the Toyota ‘Jeep BJ’ in 1951, the Land Cruiser has cemented itself as the 4×4 for off-roaders who aren’t swayed by fashion, badges or soft-touch plastics.

If you want to drive into the jungle, take a Land Rover. If you want to drive out again, take a Land Cruiser.

It’s a mischievous phrase, but the Land Cruiser just gets on with being formidable without the need for fanfare, fireworks or celebrity endorsements.

Today, the Land Cruiser is sold in around 170 countries and regions, with the Middle East by far and away the biggest market. Europe is a distant second, followed by Oceania, Asia and the United States.

In the army now

New Toyota Land Cruiser in the UK

The journey started in 1950 when Toyota was commissioned to build four-wheel-drive trucks for the U.S. military in support of South Korea.

Japan, which was still under American occupation, was given the green light to build vehicles similar to the Willys Jeep. Toyota presented a prototype to the National Police Reserve (NPR), but the contract was awarded to Mitsubishi.

Undeterred, Toyota developed the ‘BJ Jeep’ – the initials referred to the B-series engine and Jeep – with the aim of securing private customers and tapping into the export market.

To demonstrate its capabilities, Toyota took a vehicle to the Shinto temple atop Mount Atago and drove the pilgrim route to the sixth station on Mount Fuji. The result: Toyota replaced Mitsubishi as the official vehicle supplier to the NPR.

Five versions sprung from the BJ platform: mobile communications, touring liaison, fire fighter and two pick-ups. Series production began in 1953, with the ‘BJ Jeep’ tag dropped in favour of the Land Cruiser name in 1954.

Whatever you want

Toyota Land Cruiser hits sales landmark

The rest is history, with the Toyota Land Cruiser hitting the million sales mark in 1975. A year earlier, official sales started in the UK.

Amazingly, the 40 series Land Cruiser, which arrived in 1960, is still in widespread use today, some 50 years after they were manufactured. 

These aren’t 4x4s built for the school run – the Land Cruiser would laugh in the face of the ‘SUV’ tag. Here are a few examples of how the Land Cruiser is being used around the world:

  • Africa: to provide humanitarian support
  • Burundi: to carry malaria-infected children to hospital
  • Uganda: to transport patients to clinics
  • Australia: for use in zinc and copper mines
  • Costa Rica: to harvest carrots at altitudes of 3,500 metres
  • Kingston upon Thames: to take Tabitha and Tarquin to school

In the UK, Toyota Land Cruiser prices start from £34,750. Still want that #OMGNEWDEFENDER?

Toyota car production will pause a day after Brexit

Toyota production to pause in the UK after Brexit

Toyota UK is hoping to mitigate supply issues that could arise immediately after Brexit by pausing car production for one day.

“We will have a production pause on the first day of Brexit, which is Friday 1st November 2019,” said a spokesman.

“Then we will restart production on the Monday and the Tuesday.”

Toyota Corolla

In spite of the closure, Toyota doesn’t expect any volume to be lost due to the factory’s down-time. 

It remains unclear exactly what the effects of Brexit – be it with a deal or not – will be.

“We don’t know what the actual situation will be like. We’ve already pulled forward a couple of days of extra inventory which we will then use on the Monday and Tuesday and we will have to see what the situation is after that,” continued the spokesman.

Toyota Corolla production in Burnaston

UK automotive has been one of the most critical sectors of Brexit, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) claiming that no deal with the EU would be like ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for homegrown industry.

A recent report has suggested that the total cost of a no-deal Brexit could top £4 billion per year.

Toyota Corolla production in Burnaston

Toyota production comprises eight percent of the 1.52 million cars built annually in Britain.

It commenced making its new Corolla at the Burnaston factory in Derbyshire this year.

How to prevent your catalytic converter being stolen

how to stop catalytic converter theft

Thieves are stealing catalytic converters from cars, with the Toyota Prius being a particular target.

Videos on social media show thieves jacking the Toyotas up, sliding underneath them and detaching the ‘cats’ in broad daylight.

Here’s our guide to protecting your car from opportunist theft..

Why are thieves targeting the Prius?

Original second-generation Prius catalytic converters contain a large amount of platinum. A replacement item can cost more than £1,400 (including fitting), so it clearly has value to thieves.

So what can be done to stop them, or protect your car against having the cat removed?

Fitting cat lockshow to stop catalytic converter theft

Toyota was commendably quick in its response to the problem, releasing what it calls a ‘Catloc’. This physically covers the exposed catalyst components, protecting against opportunist theft.

The Catlocs are approved by the police and security experts Thatcham, so there’s added reassurance if the fact they come from Toyota itself isn’t enough.

For £200 (including VAT) and with a five-year warranty, you get some peace of mind. It’s also the best way of protecting against cat theft when you’re away from home.

Tactical parking

Simply changing how you park can help, too. If you park at the roadside, positioning your car close to a tall kerb could impede thieves’ efforts.

If you’re off-road, parking close to a wall or blocking your car in at night could help.

Away-from-home, overnight secure car parks are a good bet, although the best option is to have a garage.

Aftermarket alarmshow to stop catalytic converter theft

There have been reports of thieves somehow disabling manufacturer car alarms.

A secondary aftermarket alarm could, therefore, be the key to defending your car against all kinds of thieves, be they after the car itself or the cat.

Keeping watch

While surveillance is generally used for tracking down thieves once they’ve acted, it also serves as a worthwhile deterrent.

Thieves, while brazen, will be less likely to take the risk if they are being watched by security cameras.

Guide Dogs charity gets a lesson in efficiency from Toyota

Guide Dog in the back of a Toyota Prius

In 2017, Toyota GB employees selected Guide Dogs as the company’s chosen charity, with the carmaker signing up for a three-year partnership.

Two years on, Toyota is, er… taking a lead role at the Guide Dogs’ harness workshop near Leamington Spa, where an average of 1,500 harnesses are produced every year.

A team led by Nick Pearn, senior specialist from the Toyota Lean Management Centre (TLMC), reviewed every aspect of the production and distribution of the harnesses.

They observed that good ‘kaizen‘ principles are being used, with a recent reduction in the time it takes to produce 30 harnesses from 653 to 609 minutes.

However, Toyota made a series of recommendations, resulting in zero parts shortages and improved efficiencies. The result: guide dog owners would never be kept waiting thanks to a 24-hour turnaround on new orders.

Toyota’s system proved so successful, it was rolled out to other products, including handles, collars and leads.

‘A fresh perspective’

Toyota supports Guide Dog charity

David Pryke, workshop manager at Guide Dogs, said: “It’s been really useful to work with Toyota and gain a fresh perspective of our harness making system.

The Toyota measures led to a 66 percent reduction in inventory levels, reducing valuable time and costs. These significant efficiency improvements can instead be invested in other valuable areas to improve lives of people living with sight loss.”

While this is good news for Guide Dogs, for us it’s a chance to embed a video of Banjo the Toyota GB guide dog playing at the National Breeding Centre.

Warning: this video contains scenes of a delightful nature which some viewers might find satisfying. The patented cute o’meter is reading off the scale.

Toyota robot sets a basketball world record

Toyota basketball world record

A basketball-playing robot designed by volunteers at Toyota has broken the Guinness World Records title for the most consecutive basketball free throws by a humanoid robot (assisted).

CUE3 is six feet, 10 inches tall and a member of the professional basketball team, Alvark Tokyo. Wearing number 93, it contains small motors in each axis and detects the goal position using the camera and radar attached to its chest.

Using the readings taken off the camera, CUE3 moves the motors based on AI learning.

The robot with a fondness for shooting hoops was unveiled at a basketball match in Japan, with a film of it landing a shot from the centre line prompting a bid to set a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive basketball throws by a humanoid robot.

Going beyond five successful shots would be enough to set the record, but earlier versions of the robot had proved unsuitable as it took up to three minutes to reset the machine after each shot.

Shooting hoops and setting records

Toyota CUE3 basketball volunteers

But after five months’ development work, CUE3 took to the court with the aim of setting the record. The volunteers had to take into the account the air pressure in the ball, the true angle of the ball, and the process of retrieving the ball and placing it in the robot’s hand.

Having landed the first five shots, CUE3 set a new record, then progressed to 1,000 perfectly scored baskets, at a rate of one every 12 seconds.

Eventually the team’s ambition was reached with 2,020 shots – the number matching the date of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics – accomplished in six hours 35 minutes.

Project leader Tomohiro Nomi said: “For the record attempt, we remained members of Toyota, but also collaborated with a professional sports team to embark on a challenge no one else had undertaken.

“We would be delighted if as many people as possible developed an interest in basketball, robots and manufacturing as a result of watching our efforts.”

Toyota joins hypercar battle with new GR Super Sport

Toyota GR Supersport to race at Le Mans

Toyota has announced its radical GR Super Sport will compete in motorsport’s new hypercar class. And a road-going sports car will follow.

The car was first unveiled in concept form a couple of years ago, but this confirms Toyota is moving ahead with the project, which will directly replace its double-Le Mans-winning TS050 LMP1 car.

The new rules state that top-level Hypercar racers need to have road-going counterparts. ‘Both road and race car are undergoing design and intensive development,’ says Toyota.

Toyota GR Super Sport: in detail

Toyota GR Super Sport Concept

When the GR Super Sport concept was revealed, the powertrain was claimed to be from the Toyota TS050 LMP1 prototype. That means a 500hp twin-turbo 2.4-litre V6 with an additional 500hp of hybrid assistance.

The system output in the new class is limited to around 750hp. It’s reasonable to assume, therefore, that the drivetrain could carry over with ease in a detuned state for the racer.

That’s not to say that the GR road car will be limited. Remember that the road-legal Aston Martin Valkyrie will have over 1,000hp, courtesy of its hybrid 6.5-litre V12. Toyota is likely to aim for a similar power level.

As for how many road cars there will be, homologation requires a minimum of 20 to be produced and sold over the course of two years.

Toyota GR Super Sport Concept

“For Toyota Gazoo Racing, this new era of competition is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our credentials not only as a race team against some of the best in the business, but also as a sports car manufacturer,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Gazoo Racing.

“I am sure I join fans and competitors in welcoming the new regulations and looking forward to an exciting era of competition in WEC and at Le Mans.”

Toyota and Subaru to develop new electric car platform

Toyota and Subaru to develop electric car

Toyota and Subaru have agreed to jointly develop a new all-electric platform for mid-size and large passenger vehicles.

In a statement, Toyota said the “two companies will apply Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technologies and Toyota’s vehicle electrification technologies”.

The Japanese companies signed an agreement in 2005, with the joint development of the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ the most high-profile result of the partnership.

Toyota said both companies “are required to conduct technological development with a sense of speed across a broader-than-ever spectrum of initiatives”, with all-electric vehicles and self-driving cars requiring a huge amount of investment.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Subaru used Toyota’s plug-in hybrid knowledge during the development of the Crosstrek Hybrid in the United States, but is in desperate need of an all-electric vehicle ahead of the expected surge in demand for EVs.

It also needs to mirror its success in the US with stronger sales in Europe. Subaru of America sold 680,135 vehicles in 2018 – its best-ever year – with its Indiana plant producing its fourth millionth car in April 2019. 

Toyota has been at the forefront of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid sectors since the launch of the Prius in 1997, but it has fallen behind its key rivals in the race to bring all-electric vehicles to the market.

‘Crossing over industrial boundaries’

Toyota Prius PHV cutaway

“It is necessary to pursue a business model that goes beyond convention, crossing over industrial boundaries together with various types of other entities that share their aspirations”, said Toyota in a statement.

Subaru added: “Following this agreement with Toyota, Subaru will now shift its existing BEV (battery electric vehicle) development resources to this new joint project. Within this new framework, Subaru will continue its efforts to create an attractive BEV SUV for our customers, while improving efficiencies in terms of engineering, development, purchasing, and other areas through the new joint project.”

The platform will accommodate multiple vehicle types, including C- and D-segment class saloons and SUVs, with the first vehicle expected to be a C-segment SUV sold under each company’s own brand.