Japan's top auto and energy firms tie up to promote development of hydrogen stations

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

Major domestic carmakers and infrastructure companies have begun an “all-Japan” effort to promote hydrogen as a next-generation energy source for vehicles, as 11 firms formed a consortium Monday to promote the development of hydrogen stations.

The joint entity, Japan H2 Mobility (JHyM), aims to build 80 new hydrogen stations by fiscal 2021. Currently, 101 such stations have been built, are planned or are under construction in Japan.

Monday’s step is in tandem with the government’s drive to make hydrogen energy and zero-emission fuel cell vehicles key technologies in its bid to become a world leader amid the global shift toward a carbon-free society.

The industry ministry in December announced that it aims to build 160 hydrogen stations in Japan by fiscal 2020 and increase the number of such stations to 900 by fiscal 2030. It also announced plans to have 40,000 hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles on its roads by 2020, and increase that figure twentyfold to 800,000 by 2030.

As the world is moving toward a carbon-free society and investing more into this area, “I’m confident that an effective use of hydrogen energy, an area where Japan is currently a global front-runner, will be key for the country to ride on this momentum and lead the rest of the world,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said in a video message.

JHyM’s members include Japan’s big three automakers — Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., and Honda Motor Co. — and six major energy companies — JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., Idemitsu Kosan Co., Iwatani Corp., Tokyo Gas Co., Toho Gas Co., and Air Liquide Japan. Trading firm Toyota Tsusho Corp. and state-owned Development Bank of Japan also joined the consortium.

The joint company will aim to reduce the burden on infrastructure firms to build new hydrogen stations by using private and public funds, said Hideki Sugawara, Toyota’s project general manager at its Tokyo Engineering Division and president of JHyM.

It costs ¥400 to 500 million to build a new hydrogen station, and the joint firm aims to reduce costs via such measures as regulatory reform.

While more global carmakers are shifting toward developing electric vehicles, Japan has been active in promoting hydrogen energy and fuel cell vehicles. Toyota became the world’s first automaker to mass produce a hydrogen-powered vehicle in 2014 with its Mirai model. Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell entered the market in 2016.

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