The country’s government, alongside the top automakers, want to speed up the introduction of the fuel cell vehicles into mainstream culture, betting big on the vehicles ability to stop pollution.
The fuel cell era seems to be upon us – although the technology, researched for many years now, is still very expensive – and, when it comes to Japan’s carmakers and lawmakers, they seem to be confident the new segment could overcome the flaws that ultimately made electric car sales limp to and old man’s pace.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented its new growth plan, which included among others a road map that aims to promote hydrogen energy. As part of it, the top official included a call to arms for the introduction of new tax cuts and subsidies that would benefit the fuel cell buyers, the automakers, as well as those who aim to set up hydrogen fuel stations.
“Even after 10 years, fuel cell cars are likely to be less than 10 percent of the Japanese market,” said Ryuichiro Inoue, a professor at Tokyo City University and an expert in the auto industry. “This isn’t a strategy to talk about for the next 10 years, but for the next 20 to 30 years.”
While Nissan has so far invested heavily into the more “traditional” electric cars, making the world’s best selling vehicle of the type – the Leaf – the other two big Japanese automakers are now all in for the fuel cell cars.
The full cell cars are using electricity as power, although this time the fuel is hydrogen – not power stored in battery cells – and the only by product that comes off the exhaust is water. It’s also faster to refill and offers a bigger driving range than competing electric cars.