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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Friday set up a private-public panel to explore ways to promote greater use of hydrogen to meet the nation’s energy needs.

Addressing the media at the panel’s inaugural meeting at City Hall, Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said its main task will be to help create a society that makes daily use of hydrogen energy. The main goal for now appears to be preparing for the launch of fuel cell cars next year.

“For the wide acceptance of fuel-cell vehicles, there are difficult tasks such as setting up hydrogen fuel stations,” Masuzoe said. “We have to act now to help develop the full potential of the energy.”

Fuel cell vehicles are being considered to transport athletes and visitors at the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, but the lack of a refueling infrastructure ensures the venture will be a costly one. Building just one hydrogen fuel station would cost about ¥500 million to ¥600 million, according to the metropolitan government.

The other main hurdles are expected to be the price of the vehicles, estimated at around ¥10 million, clearing regulations, and finding people to man the hydrogen stations, officials said.

Since fuel cells don’t emit carbon dioxide, they have been viewed as one of the most promising next-generation energy sources and a way to reduce automobile pollution.

Another of the council’s tasks will be to come up with measures to speed up the development of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure ahead of the Summer Games in 2020, the governor said.

“At the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in six years’ time, I’d like the capital’s citizens as well as domestic and foreign guests to sense the arrival of a society that makes use of hydrogen energy by introducing fuel cell cars and buses for transportation to the athletes’ village and venues,” he said.

“This will project Tokyo’s image as a future-oriented, eco-friendly city to the world and showcase Japan’s advanced technological capabilities to the world,” he added.

The council, chaired by Takeo Kikkawa, a professor at Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Commerce and Management, is made up of City Hall bureaucrats and 20 outside members, including officials from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda R&D Co., Nissan Motor Co., Panasonic Corp., JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Tokyo Gas Co.

The council is scheduled to compile its final report in February.

“Tokyo will lead the rest of the country in revolutionizing Japan’s energy structure,” Masuzoe said.

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