Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has big plans for Japan to lead the way in clean cars. His bureaucrats are getting in the way.

Abe has declared hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles "the ultimate eco-car," praising their promise for the environment and the nation's automakers, which are ahead of the pack. A symbol of the challenges he's running into is the compact hydrogen fueling station that Honda Motor Co. is having to put on hold.

Lengthy criteria that regulators are still finalizing after three years of deliberation is undermining interest from local governments in the stations, which would boost the appeal of Honda's Clarity fuel cell sedan.