By SHINYA TAKAGI/ Staff Writer The Asahi Shimbun
In its first official numerical targets, the government is seeking to supercharge the number of fuel cell vehicles in the nation from the current number of about 500 to 800,000 by 2030.
The ministry of trade and industry’s plan, announced March 16, calls for research and development to reduce the cost of fuel cells to one-fourth the current level. It also plans to increase the number of hydrogen stations fourfold to about 320 by fiscal 2025.
Considered the "ultimate eco-car," FCVs are powered by electricity that is generated through a chemical reaction between hydrogen fuel and airborne oxygen, producing only water as an emission.
However, the number of FCVs in Japan was only about 500 as of the end of February due to their high prices--more than 7 million yen ($64,800)--and the limited number of hydrogen fueling stations.
The government’s plan, compiled by an expert panel of the ministry of trade and industry made up of representatives from the auto and energy industries and academia, calls for the number of FCVs to total about 40,000 by 2020, 200,000 by 2025 and 800,000 by 2030.
The government will also seek to increase the number of hydrogen stations from the current number of about 80 to 160 by FY 2020 and 320 by FY 2025.
The plan also calls for the promotion of research and development to reduce the cost of fuel cells to bring down the prices of FCVs to levels available to general consumers.
The government projects that the cost of fuel cells can be halved from the current level by 2020 and lowered to around one-fourth by 2025 by reducing the use of expensive cell materials and the standardization and sharing of cell components.
The reduction of the fuel cell cost will enable the auto industry to introduce popular-market FCV models that will be priced less than 3 million yen, according to the plan.
The plans also call for the government to relax the regulations on hydrogen fuel trade to allow the introduction of self-service fuel stations so that fuel station operators can generate a profit without relying on government subsidies.
Among Japanese automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to achieve annual global sales of more than 30,000 Mirai vehicles, the world’s first commercial FCV model, by 2020.
Honda Motor Co. rolled out its new FCV model, the Clarity Fuel Cell, on March 10.