Volkswagen says fuel-cell cars would struggle beyond Japan image

Volkswagen AG, which is competing with Toyota Motor Corp for the number one spot in the global auto sales, said that cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells will probably face difficulties in catching on beyond Japan’s market.

Volkswagen Group Japan’s President, Shigeru Shoji, said that the Japanese government subsidies worth as much as $28,500 per vehicle are probably too high to be matched by other countries. He added that refueling will be impractical because handling hydrogen is challenging and building out the necessary infrastructure would be costly.

Shoji stated that “It may fly with Japan, but not globally. Fuel cells could become another example of the ‘Galapagos syndrome’ that plagues Japanese companies for making products that are only popular at home.”

Shoji now joins Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk among those skeptical regarding fuel cells. His comments show that there is a growing divide in the auto industry over which technology will prevail in replacing the traditional gasoline and diesel cars. In Japan, fuel-cell vehicles have received government’s financial support, which has helped cars benefit just as hybrids like Toyota’s Prius have. Volkswagen is at the moment monitoring Toyota’s progress with the purpose of staying no more than three years of development work behind its Japanese rival in matching its fuel cell technology.

By Gabriela Florea