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Toyota's S-Class rival showcases next-gen hydrogen technology

A new six-seatToyota concept will be revealed at theTokyo motor show, showcasing the firm's next-generation hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Called the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride, it is said to propose "a new form of the premium saloon in a low-carbon society".

The concept's wheelbase is 30cm longer than that of aMercedes-Benz S-Class, despite the fact that its overall length is around 40cm shorter.

This is possible, Toyota says, because of the car's next-generation hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, which is smaller and more efficient than that currently used in the Toyota Mirai. Toyota's R&D chiefs say the stack is "at least 10% more efficient" than the Mirai, the firm's only fuel cell vehicle on sale today, adding that the fuel cell technology displayed in the Fine-Comfort Ride could make production between 2025 and 2030.

The Fine-Comfort Ride's length is said by Toyota's R&D team to be ideal for incorportaing the hydrogen fuel cell technology and hydrogen tank, suggesting that future implementation of the technology will be confined to larger cars.

The smaller powertrain has allowed Toyota to push the cabin dimensions across the full length and width of the vehicle, with the wheels close to each corner each containing an electric motor. No details of how the wheels will drive the car have been announced. At its widest, the Fine-Comfort Ride is around two metres in width - around 11cm more than the S-Class. Despite its name the Fine-Comfort Ride uses a conventional suspension arrangement, with engineers saying that the comfort benefits come from the powertrain and in-wheel electric motor arrangement.

The Fine-Comfort Ride’s body is shaped to be aerodynamically efficient and it runs with a unique cover along its underside to dampen any noise from the road or tyres. On the Japanese test cycle, the car is said by Toyota to have a range of 620 miles (1000km) between refills, from a 6kg capacity tank.

Inside, as the car’s name suggests, the focus is on comfort. The seats can be adjusted according to posture (including a fully reclined sleeping position), the numerous digital displays and projection screens are built around occupants and the seat layout can be altered to aid conversation or create personal spaces. Notably, the rearmost seats are in a sofa-like bench configuration, while the front two rows are made up of individual seats.

Although Toyota chiefs have refused to confirm the Fine-Comfort Ride has been designed with autonomous driving functions in mind, the ability for front seat passengers to swing their seats round and talk to rear-seat occupants suggests this is likely.

As with current hydrogen-powered vehicles, including theToyota Mirai, Toyota says the Fine-Comfort Ride can be refuelled in around three minutes.

Toyota officials would not confirm the concept's weight, beyond saying that it weighed more than two tonnes.

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