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Iwatani to add hydrogen stations in Japan's regional hubs

OSAKA -- Iwatani plans to expand its network of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles in Japan to roughly 30 by March 2017.

     Japan's largest supplier of hydrogen gas intends to spend up to around 3 billion yen ($26 million) to build 10 new facilities.

     Besides Iwatani, such companies as JX Nippon Oil & Energy are also building hydrogen refueling stations. While Japan is expected to have roughly 80 as of March 31, they are concentrated in such big cities as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, and their suburbs.

     Iwatani will focus on smaller cities. It plans to set up a station in Sendai, the first in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, with such sites as Okayama Prefecture in western Japan also under consideration. The company hopes to build the stations along highways, said President Masao Nomura.

     Access to hydrogen stations every few hundred kilometers would not only improve convenience for drivers of fuel cell cars in outlying areas, where few own such vehicles, but also facilitate long-distance travel by those living in major cities.

     Toyota Motor and Honda Motor have commercialized fuel cell cars, but few are on the road. Even Iwatani's relatively busy hydrogen station near Tokyo Tower serves only about 10 vehicles daily.

     "Demand is certain to continue growing as Japan becomes a hydrogen society," said Nomura, indicating the company will invest aggressively in this field.

(Nikkei)

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