By Yoko Kubota
The Japanese government is planning to offer ample support to popularize fuel cell vehicle technology as Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co prepare to launch hydrogen-powered cars in 2015.
The government on Thursday drafted a timeline that spelled out targets and actions over the next 25 years to commercialize fuel cell vehicles and boost use of hydrogen energy in general.
The move comes as Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party considers supporting the technology through subsidies and tax breaks, so that by 2025 fuel cell vehicles can sell for around $20,000 or a little more, the same price as popular gas-electric hybrids.
A fuel cell vehicle, which runs on electricity generated from cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen, emits only water vapor and heat. The vehicles can run five times longer than battery-operated electric cars, and their hydrogen tanks can be filled in just a few minutes.
But they are expensive, and the lack of fuelling infrastructure could get in the way of a successful commercialization. In Japan, just a handful of hydrogen fuelling stations have been built due to strict safety regulations, high costs and the unclear outlook for demand.
The government aims to cut the price for building a hydrogen fuel station by half to around 200 million to 250 million yen ($2 million-$2.45 million) by 2020, the draft showed.