Japan’s Big Three to support creation of hydrogen-filling station network

Japan’s three largest automakers–Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.–have agreed to build and support a network of hydrogen-filling stations in Japan to create a refueling infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota has launched sales of its new Mirai hydrogen car and Honda plans to launch a fuel-cell vehicle of its own next year. Nissan is working on a similar model.

The Mirai this week received certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which rated it at 67 miles per gallon-equivalent, or MPGe, with the vehicle offering a range of 312 miles per tank. Toyota says owners can refuel Mirai in just five minutes.

“Just as the Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly 20 years ago, the Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation,” said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America.

Currently Japan has 23 hydrogen stations in operation. The goal is to open up hundreds more in the near future. The three automakers collectively pledged to come up with somewhere between JPY 5 to 6 billion (USD 40-49 million) to support this effort.

Japan is aggressively pushing to reduce its dependence on foreign oil while also cutting smog in cities like Tokyo. It has outlined a plan to showcase hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

They have also been supporting plans to create a similar infrastructure in the United States, where the only ready supply of hydrogen currently is located in Southern California. Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. has cited the lack of fueling stations as a key roadblock that has limited sales of the Tucson Fuel-Cell Vehicle it launched in the U.S. last year.

Currently, only about 10 hydrogen stations are open to the public in the entire U.S., eight of them in California. In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will provide USD 20 million annually to help set up as many as 100 stations across the state.

Last November, Honda announced plans to add USD 13.8 million of its own to the effort to establish more California hydrogen stations. It is working with FirstElement Fuel, based in Newport Beach, Calif., which received USD 27.6 million in additional funding from the state. Toyota also has promised to provide funding to FirstElement.