With its first mass-produced Fuel Cell vehicle — rumoured to be called the Mirai — just months from launch, Japanese automaker Toyota is doing everything it can to promote hydrogen fuel cell technology as the more convenient, more practical alternative to battery electric vehicles.
Yet the expected sticker price of the Toyota Mirai, a massive ¥7 million ($68,000) has meant that Toyota has been working hard to convince governments to offer massive purchase incentives to anyone willing to buy one. So far in its home market of Japan, Toyota has managed to convince the Japanese government to offer a massive ¥2 million ($20,000) to each and every customer who buys a Mirai, with certain prefectures pledging to add another ¥1 million of incentives on top of that.
Even with an unbelievable ¥3 million in incentives slashed from the price of Toyota’s first fuel cell car however, it looks like the Japanese government may be going one step further by underwriting the entire cost of early adopters’ cars.
That’s right: the Japanese government is considering giving hydrogen cars to early adopters willing to try the technology out.
As Automotive News reports, the Japanese government is currently thinking of ways to try and encourage its citizens to make the switch from fossil fuels to hydrogen fuel cell cars. While the ¥2 million subsidy is now officially in place for the start of H2 sales early next year — supplemented in the Aichi prefecture by another ¥1 million in subsidies — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is prepared to do whatever it takes to help Japan lead what he believes will be a hydrogen revolution.
Quoting Japan’s Nihon Keizai newspaper, Automotive News says a governmental panel is currently considering pushing that further, doing whatever it takes to help make hydrogen fuel cell cars a success. Among them, the Nihon Keizai claims, are free fuel for hydrogen fuel cell cars, exemptions from highway tolls and most noticeably, free cars.
While that’s a tentative claim — we’ve been unable to find any additional evidence to corroborate this claim this rumour — the total incentives available to hydrogen fuel cell cars in certain parts of Japan equate to around 40 percent of the car’s official purchase price. What’s more, those incentives are equivalent to more than the cost of a brand-new Mitsubishi i-Miev electric car and almost as enough to buy a brand new Nissan LEAF.
Is the Japanese government really planning go give fuel cell vehicles away? We’re dubious, partly because of the sheer amount of money involved, but it does raise the question of when subsidies are appropriate — and when they’re too much.
Naturally, electric and hydrogen electric cars are far better for the environment than petrol or diesel vehicles, but how far should global governments go in underwriting the cost? And in the case of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, what is an appropriate incentive amount?
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