Japan is lagging behind other countries when it comes to the number of electric vehicles on the road as the government strives to phase out gasoline-only vehicles.
Electric vehicles are apparently regarded as not practical for consumers for a number of reasons, including a lack of charging stations, high prices and some functional challenges.
Still, shifting to electric vehicles is necessary for Japan to achieve its 2050 decarbonization target, and domestic automakers are rolling out new nongasoline models in a bid to stimulate demand.
The government has recently hammered out a plan to stop selling new gasoline-only vehicles by the mid-2030s, meaning that new vehicle sales will be limited to electric and fuel-cell vehicles as well as gas-electric hybrid models.
Responding to the government's call, Nissan Motor Co. will launch the Ariya electric vehicle this summer. Honda Motor Co. released its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the Honda E, last year, while Toyota Motor Corp. fully revamped its Mirai fuel-cell vehicle late last year for the first time in six years.
Among factors hampering the spread of electric vehicles in Japan are costs and charging inconveniences. Most models cost more than ¥5 million even with the use of subsidies, and it takes more than 30 minutes to fully charge an electric vehicle, while the cars' cruising ranges can vary.
As for fuel-cell vehicles, there are only about 140 hydrogen charging stations in the country compared with 30,000 gas stations.
Given these circumstances, domestic automakers are devoting their efforts to the development of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Honda launched a new hybrid version of the Fit compact last year, while Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has released a plug-in hybrid version of the Eclipse Cross compact SUV.
Hybrid vehicles, however, are not a silver bullet for decarbonization. They are fuel-efficient, but not zero-emission models.
In 2020, sales of electric vehicles in Japan came to slightly below 15,000 units, representing less than 1% of overall new vehicle sales in the country, compared with about 7% in Germany and around 5% in China.
"A foundation for the promotion of electric vehicles hasn't been put in place yet in Japan," an official at a major automaker said.
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