| TOKYO, June 19
TOKYO, June 19 The Japanese government is
planning to offer ample support to popularize fuel cell vehicle
technology as Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co
prepare to launch hydrogen-powered cars in 2015.
The government on Thursday drafted a timeline that spelled
out targets and actions over the next 25 years to commercialize
fuel cell vehicles and boost use of hydrogen energy in general.
The move comes as Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party
considers supporting the technology through subsidies and tax
breaks, so that by 2025 fuel cell vehicles can sell for around
$20,000 or a little more, the same price as popular gas-electric
A fuel cell vehicle, which runs on electricity generated
from cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen, emits only water
vapour and heat. The vehicles can run five times longer than
battery-operated electric cars, and their hydrogen tanks can be
filled in just a few minutes.
But they are expensive, and the lack of fuelling
infrastructure could get in the way of a successful
commercialisation. In Japan, just a handful of hydrogen fuelling
stations have been built due to strict safety regulations, high
costs and the unclear outlook for demand.
The government aims to cut the price for building a hydrogen
fuel station by half to around 200 million to 250 million yen
($2 million-$2.45 million) by 2020, the draft showed.
Japan also aims to have around 100 hydrogen stations in
operation by end-March 2016, up from 17 now, the draft said.
The timeline, which will be finalised in about a week, does
not include fuel cell vehicle sales targets or details on how
much in incentives will be offered to car buyers.
Separately, the ruling party, which is also compiling policy
recommendations to boost hydrogen energy use, is considering
annual sales targets of 40,000 fuel cell cars by 2020 and
400,000 by 2030, a draft showed.
Toyota, which plans to start selling its new fuel cell car
next year in Japan, the United States and Europe, aims to
popularize the technology as it did the Prius, which it launched
in 1997 to become the world's top-selling hybrid vehicle.
The company, which is set to brief reporters on June 25
about its fuel cell vehicle development, has said the car could
be priced as low as around $50,000 excluding subsidies. The
Prius hybrid starts from around $21,600 in Japan before tax
($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)
(editing by Jane Baird)