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Politics

Japan to push hydrogen stations for fuel cell autos

High costs present a challenge for setting up hydrogen fueling stations.

TOKYO -- The Japanese government aims to quadruple the number of hydrogen fueling stations in the country by fiscal 2025, looking to get more fuel cell vehicles into the market and on the road.

     The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will present long-term targets for the clean-vehicle technology when a committee of fuel cell experts meets Wednesday. The plan includes bringing Japan's hydrogen fuel stations to 160 by fiscal 2020 and 320 by fiscal 2025. Specific measures to achieve these goals will be discussed, based on input from panel members.

     Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which release only water as exhaust, are seen as the next big thing in the green-car revolution. But a hydrogen station costs 400 million yen to 500 million yen ($3.54 million to $4.43 million) to build, compared with around 100 million yen for a traditional gasoline station. The stations also cost more than 40 million yen a year to run, keeping them from catching on faster. The government had targeted 100 such stations nationwide by the fiscal year ending this March. But the current total amounts to only 80 or so.

     The economy ministry will provide subsidies for such efforts as technological development to lower construction and operating costs for the stations. Regulations will be eased as well. Lifting the ban on gas-station-style self-service, for example, would let operators lower personnel expenses.

     The government will also promote mobile fueling stations, consisting of a hydrogen-loading unit mounted on a large truck, and other measures to keep costs down.

     Toyota Motor debuted a fuel cell vehicle 2014, and Honda Motor released one last Thursday. About 500 such vehicles now ply Japan's roads. The economy ministry hopes to raise the tally to around 200,000 by 2025 and some 800,000 by 2030 by giving automakers development subsidies and other support.

(Nikkei)

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