Aichi primes hydrogen car launch with 11-station plan

Chunichi Shimbun

Dozens of hydrogen stations are expected to be built across the country to pave the way for the advent of fuel cell vehicles, but many of the facilities planned are clustered around a few key cities.

In Aichi Prefecture, construction is underway on seven hydrogen facilities, while most of the other prefectures in the Chubu region have yet to make plans.

With four trial stations already in operation, hydrogen facilities in the prefecture will reach 11 once construction on the new ones is complete.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start manufacturing FCVs by the end of 2014 and hopes to sell them in four major cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

That may explain why the construction of commercial hydrogen stations is concentrated around those cities. Most of the facilities in Chubu were built close to Toyota headquarters and around Nagoya.

Toyota Tsusho Corp. held a commencement ceremony on Sept. 1 for the hydrogen station built within Toyota Buhin Aichi Kyohan Co.’s facility, which is set to open in January.

“Setting up hydrogen stations is an important first step in encouraging the use of Toyota’s next generation automobiles,” Executive Vice President Mikio Asano said during a speech at the ceremony.

Another station near the Toyota Interchange along the Tomei Expressway, which will offer both hydrogen and gasoline, is scheduled to open at the same time. Its hydrogen will be produced in another facility but will be stored and sold there.

The retail price for hydrogen has yet to be determined, but in terms of running costs it will be in the same price range as gasoline, which can provide 15 kilometers per liter.

Construction of five other stations by companies such as Toho Gas Co. and JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. are also progressing as planned in Aichi Prefecture.

The government aims to set up about 100 hydrogen stations by the end of March 2016, but definitive plans are only in place for 45 facilities so far.

Part of the reason is the high cost of building a hydrogen station, which costs five times more than a gasoline station.

To lower the financial burden, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is planning to set aside ¥11 billion as subsidies for fiscal 2015, a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

“Just like a Lexus cannot run in a desert without gasoline stations, an FCV requires hydrogen stations for it to take off successfully,” said Koji Nakagawa, head of the new business development department at Toyota Tsusho.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Sept. 2.