Toyota, Honda, Nissan to subsidise operational costs of hydrogen fuelling stations in Japan

Japan's top three automakers today said they would spend up to 6 billion  ($48.92 million) combined for subsidising the cost of operating hydrogen fuelling stations as the country aimed to lead the world in developing cars that used the fuel.

Japan is likely to miss an ambitious target of having around 100 of the fuelling stations in place by March next year, under plans to develop a so-called hydrogen society to help cut carbon emissions and alleviate its heavy reliance on overseas fossil fuels.

Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co said in a joint statement they would shoulder around one-third of the operational costs for hydrogen stations, limiting annual support to 11 million yen ($89,700) per station.

The automakers would split the cost roughly on the basis of the number of fuel-cell vehicles each company sold, Toyota senior managing officer Kiyotaka Ise told a news conference.

Toyota's Mirai, launched in December was the only fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) now on sale,  with a limited production of 700 in the first year.

Honda had said it would roll out an FCV by next March, and Nissan's was not due until 2017 at the earliest.

Only 74 stations had so far been planned due to the high cost of building them.

Japan is pushing for hydrogen distribution facilities to encourage the use of what Toyota had called the next generation of auto technology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would create a "hydrogen society," with fuel cell also powering homes and office buildings.

"Fuel-cell vehicles running on hydrogen are electric vehicles without the compromises, such as range anxiety and long waits in front of charging stations," Thanh Ha Pham, a Tokyo- based analyst at Jefferies Group LLC, said in a report Wednesday. "We expect increasing focus on this technology."

According to researcher Fuji Keizai's projections, Japan's market for hydrogen used in fuel-cell vehicles would grow to almost 100 billion by fiscal 2025 from 400 million this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Honda said it would start selling a hydrogen car this fiscal year. Honda aimed to introduce a vehicle that could drive over 700 kilometers on a single charge, according to Toshihiro Mibe, in charge of powertrain and automobile operations.

The national and local governments of Japan had also said they would subsidise the cost of operating hydrogen stations.