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JX Nippon Oil to build 100 hydrogen stations in Japan

TOKYO -- JX Nippon Oil & Energy plans to set up 100 Japanese hydrogen stations by fiscal 2018 in an effort to develop the infrastructure needed for the adoption of fuel cell vehicles.

     The company has five hydrogen stations in Tokyo, Yokohama and elsewhere. It had planned to increase them to 15 by the end of fiscal 2014 but has now raised the target to 19 in the same time frame. It seeks to set up 40 stations by fiscal 2015 and meet the goal of 100 in the following two to three years.

     JX Nippon Oil will soon form a dedicated subsidiary to handle procurement and station operations. The plan is to offer hydrogen at existing gasoline stations as well as dedicated facilities.

     The government has positioned the zero-emissions vehicle -- powered by a chemical reaction between oxygen in the air and hydrogen to produce water -- as a key automotive technology for the future. It wants a total of 100 hydrogen stations set up by fiscal 2015. But so far, definitive plans are in place for only 41 locations. JX Nippon Oil's latest move will thus make a significant contribution to the effort.

     To lower the financial burden of building hydrogen stations, which averages about 460 million yen ($4.48 million), the government provides up to 280 million yen in subsidies. It is loosening regulations to allow the use of cheaper steel materials in hydrogen tanks, just as Europe and the U.S. do. Requirements for building facilities in urban areas will be eased as well. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry sees room to cut costs by 150 million yen.

     Toyota is gearing up to release fuel cell vehicles this fiscal year in Tokyo, Nagoya, and other areas with hydrogen stations. A four-passenger sedan will sell for about 7 million yen before taxes.

     Honda is moving to release fuel cell vehicles by the end of 2015. It is developing a five-passenger sedan with an estimated price below 10 million yen.

     The government will consider providing up to 2 million yen in subsidies per vehicle purchased.

     Iwatani, a trading company specializing in industrial and household gases, is planning hydrogen stations, as are Tokyo Gas and Toyota Tsusho.



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