Japan Admits It Won’t Reach Hydrogen Fuel Cell Filling Station Goal For 2016

For the past few years, Japan’s government has worked hard to promote hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation choice of the future, with millions of yen invested into projects designed to make the manufacture and use of hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles a commercial reality.

Toyota wants there to be a level playing field between EVs and H2. But Japan is already falling behind.

In order for cars like the Toyota Mirai to sell, Japan needs a massive hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. It’s already falling behind on its plans of 100 fuelling stations by March 2016.

So far, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has setup generous hydrogen fuel cell incentive schemes that dwarf existing electric car incentives offered in Japan. It has committed to buying a large number of Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars from the Japanese automaker for use in governmental fleets, and it has even heavily revised regulations on hydrogen refuelling stations to make them easier to install.

But despite all that, Japan’s government looks likely to miss its own target of having 100 hydrogen filling stations in operation across Japan by March 2016, making its dream of a hydrogen-powered economy seem unlikely at this time.

As Reuters reported yesterday,the current administration had earmarked more than ¥ 21.38 million  billion ($178.37 million) over the past three years to subside the building of hydrogen fueling stations across Japan. Driven by its desire to be a market leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology — and eager to support the launch of the first hydrogen fuel cell sedans to be mass-marketed by Toyota and Honda — the Japanese government had set itself a target of having 100 hydrogen fuel cell stations in operation across Japan by March next year.

Without a decent fuelling infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cell cars just aren't practical yet.

Without a decent fuelling infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cell cars just aren’t practical yet.

Before the start of the final round of funding applications — a portion with ¥9.59 billion of funds allocated to it — just 44 hydrogen fuelling stations had been approved. The final round only approved an additional 32 hydrogen fueling stations, leaving the Japanese government 24 fuelling stations short of its target.

The reasons for the delay aren’t entirely known, but it’s worth noting that each hydrogen fuelling station costs around $5 million to install and commission. In order for privately-owned companies to invest that kind of money in adopting hydrogen fuel alongside more conventional fuels like gasoline and compressed natural gas, a return on investment has to be guaranteed.

Right now, with only the hand-built, loss-leading Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car in production, making a return on an investment in hydrogen isn’t assured. Even with government subsidies offering to meet up to one half of the $5 million build costs per site, those within the industry say it will take at least ten years, possibly more,  before a return on investment takes place.

Honda's hydrogen fuel cell projects rely on the construction of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell projects rely on the construction of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

Just like electric cars before it, the only sure-fire way to see hydrogen fuel cell cars reach mass-market potential is if the government — and automakers — build the refuelling network themselves.

Unlike electric cars — which can at least be charged from a standard household outlet in an emergency — hydrogen fuel cell cars have no backup option. They must be filled up at a dedicated hydrogen filling station or run dry. Charging stations are also far easier and far cheaper to install: for the cost of one hydrogen filling station, between 60 and 100 CHAdeMO stations could be installed.

Like electric cars before them, hydrogen fuel cell cars need some serious infrastructure investment to reach mass-market appeal. The challenge now facing the Japanese government and manufacturers of hydrogen fuel cell cars is therefore crystal clear: invest for the long term, or remain the fuel that’s always ten years away.

 

______________________________________

Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisShare on RedditEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest

Related News

  • Ben Helton

    Transport Evolved admits it wants hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to fail. nnnIf this article weren’t so narrowed viewed, it would acknowledge Toyota has been investing in the long term. As well as Daimler, Honda, and Hyundai. nnnThat’s why you see recent partnerships like BMW partnering with Toyota, Ford and NISSAN partnering with Daimler AG, Volkswagen partnering with Ballard, GM partnering with Honda. Obviously, KIA is partnered with Hyundai for the long haul on anything. Are we missing anybody? nnnBetween just these 5 major partnerships, it represents about 95% of the vehicles getting put on the road every year.nnnThe auto-makers are stepping up to the need for ZERO EMISSION vehicles. Why must all the battery nuts hate on such a great technology? A fuel cell is essentially a simple element battery without the downfall of poor range and slow charge times.

    • Thanks for your comments, Ben. nnHere at Transport Evolved, we cover hydrogen fuel cell technology and try to be as fair as we can to every fuel type. Our editorial remit is Cleaner, Greener, Safer and Smarter. nnBut in terms of this article, we have to admit that Japan is currently struggling to reach its goal of having 100 hydrogen fuelling stations. Like electric cars before it, hydrogen fuel cell cars face a tough climb to reach market mass adoption. nnAnd that’s before we account for the respective challenges facing the way fuel for both cars are made. nnInvestment in H2 fuel cell technology and refuelling technology needs to continue at a blistering rate in order for Honda and Nissan — along with other fuel cell manufacturers — to reach profitability. nnElectric car technology has a head start. And right now, it leads in terms of cost and refuelling infrastructure. nnNo-one is hating on any technology. https://transportevolved.com/2014/11/05/editorial-cover-hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric-cars-fuel-types/

      • Benidorm7

        Ever tried to charge your electric car from a standard outlet? What do you get, 5 MPH?nnnIf you have an electric battery only car you need a high power charger. Unless you’re happy with 5 mph. And you also better hope that on a journey, when you have to pull over and charge for 30 minutes or more- at a high power charger, that there isn’t a line- or that 30 minutes becomes an hour or 2 or more. nnnAnd usually when you do charge an electric car you are charging with electrons made from COAL. So much for your green.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          Why don’t you go trolling on Fox News and Friends.

        • Mark Chatterley

          I’ve only ever charged mine from a standard socket at home. 10mph is what I get. Done nearly 48k miles in mine. nnAnd even if all they electrons going into my car came from coal, it’d still be greener than an ICE.

        • Andrew Bell

          What you are suggesting is a normative assumption which has not been the charging & driving experience of over 300,000 EV & PHEV owners around the world. If it was, it would have been all over Fox News and similar ilk.nnCoal is not very green, but neither is the fossil fuel energy required to make hydrogen or the gasoline and then burn it for all of us to breath in exhaust. Turns out that even with charging an EV with our coal heavy Alberta electric grid, one of the dirtiest in North America, more pollution is created driving a gas car than charging an EV in Alberta. nnnGas cars driving in Alberta would produce approximately 32kg CO2 to travel 100km (13kg + 18.92kg) (gasoline production from tar sands bitumen + gasoline combustion)nnEV charging off the Alberta grid would produce approximately 15.2 kg CO2 to travel 100km.nnnnAlso, with out deregulated electric grid, Alberta EV owners can purchase their electricity from locally produced solar and wind energy fed into the grid. So in affect – ‘net zero’.

        • Ad van der Meer

          I charge at 30 mph at home, but my installation is larger than average. My roof happens to be covered with solar and for the part of my electricity use I can’t cover with solar I am participating in a wind turbine.nIf I were to use hydrogen, I would need to double the number of solar panels or shares in the wind turbine. Now how would that help?

        • My electricity comes from hydro, much cleaner than coal. Next year it will come from our community planetary fusion reactor sitting 93 million miles away. I drive my Leaf every day and my car charges back to full power in around 2-3 hours using the same 240v circuit that runs my dryer. My used Leaf cost less than a third of what a Mirai is going to cost and I doubt we will see any h2 stations around here any time in the next decade if California can only manage three.

      • You might want to start by understanding the basics.nnAn FCEV is an electric car.nnThe motor is electric. It even has a small battery buffer. The fuel cell and hydrogen generate electricity on the fly. (There are even some manufacturers who are making a plug-in FCEV version so you can get 30 miles out of the battery.)nnThe difference between an FCEV and a BEV is like the difference between a using a boiler or a tankless system for hot water. One requires large bulky heavy storage (battery) the other requires a very small on-demand system (fuel cell hydrogen).

        • And yet, despite all that hydrogen being produced, no one can put it into a form usable by an FCV, yet every place that has an electric socket is a potential fueling station for a BEV. nnI can buy a lot of FCs for the cost of a single H2 station.

        • Joe Viocoe

          “The US produces enough industrial hydrogen to fuel 20 to 30 million cars right now”nnnKinda like the megatons of gold in seawater right?nnnUnless industry is already compressing and storing that hydrogen, it is not in a useful form.

      • Ben Helton

        “Without a decent fuelling infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cell cars just arenu2019t practical yet.”nnThis is not a caption to a picture, it’s an editorial bias. nnAnother poor caption with obvious bias;nn”Hondau2019s hydrogen fuel cell projects rely on the construction of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.”nnnnnnThis infrastructure argument is ridiculous. Half of the people who have a vehicle park their car on the street or in a parking lot (non-homeowners). The infrastructure needs for a total EV paradigm is astonishing.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          I guess you Green Hydrogen dreams went up in smoke!

          • Ben Helton

            Apple finally got their precious fuel cell patent they have been longing for in the last 5 years.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            How does that help with the building of hydrogen fueling stations across Japan?

      • AR

        This article is certainly bias and the argument is simple and singled-dimension without considering the complexity of technology evolution and deployment. Unfortunately, it only focuses on the very basic concept of its economics without even recognizing an expected valley of death. The investments by both public and private sectors have to be significant to get through that valley of death as was the case with the first commercially viable hybrids. I believe it was well over 5 years before Toyota saw a serious ROI (don’t quote me on this). We could certainly benefit from looking at the bigger picture and understand the long term benefits. This article is not about all the facts but rather selectively picking headlines to deter positive expectations.

    • Benidorm7

      You are so right, Ben. From the title (“Admits”) to the last paragraph, this Gordon-Bloomfield can’t help but smear hydrogen. It’s a bit amusing, but if this site continues like this it will be a laughing stock. They can nitpick and smear all they want but it’s not going to stop Hydrogen cars. This is the loyalty Toyota gets for actually pioneering the first electric hybrid.nnAnd to say they are for green transport, and then to ignore the fact that millions of batteries everywhere isn’t exactly a “green” solution, is curious to say the least. Maybe this Gordon-Bloomfield (or a relative) owns stock in Tesla. Who knows. Who really cares. In a few years when the batteries in their own electric cars need to be replaced it will be interesting to see how they spin that. Most of the gas “savings” will go towards a new battery.nnGordon-bloomfield complains about how the Hydrogen is going to be made but has ignored the Solar Hydrogen manufacturing plant at Honda in Swindon. Totally ignored it. 20 Tonnes of solar H2 per year is a spectacular start- in England no less.nnShe’s a farce and this website is biased beyond belief. I don’t bother coming here unless it pops up in a Hydrogen search. And I know that I’ll be reading something written by someone who has no interest in writing objectively.nnhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK2cNEyuObM

      • Let’s keep the personal insults out of this eh?nnFor editorial clarity: I do not own any stock in any companies associated with transportation in any way. Nor do any relatives.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          Ben has never posted a positive comment on BEV on GCR.nWhen he is not bashing Tesla battery pack, he is promoting FCV.

      • u010eakujem

        Or… maybe hydrogen is just flawed technology and Transport Evolved is just pointing out the bleedin’ obvious…nnnCould you do better? Where’s your news site for us to compare? nHehehe. Thought so.

      • Ad van der Meer

        @benidorm7:disqus Would you care tell us how much energy goes into producing that 20 ton H2? (kWh/kg) Can you than translate this to Wh/mi hydrogen consumption?nWould you care to tell us how many cars this station could service?nnLet me help you here.nBest result I have seen is 55 kWh of electricity to produce 1 kg of hydrogen. If you can find better, please let us know. The Mirai is rated (by Toyota) to have a 430 mi range according to JC08, which translates with hydrogen capacity of 5 kg’s to 86 mi/kg and 640 Wh/mi energy consumption.nNow consider that the average Model S uses about between 350 and 400 Wh/mi.nAlso consider that this is the JC08 that tries to tell us that a Nissan Leaf can do 141 mi on a charge!nThe average driver in the UK drives 7900 mi/year. That calculates to 217 FCEV’s in an ideal world. This installation can produce 55 kg of hydrogen per day or 4730 mi/day. A medium sized gas station will refuel about 2700 (US) gallons per day, Let’s assume a 30 MPG average consumption that adds up to 81’000 mi/day or about 17 times more than this station.nWatching this video, there is quite an impressive amount of machinery and tanks needed. When I scale it up to the mi/day of an average gas station that is going to be a rather BIG installation. Even if economies of scale reduces the space needed by 50% I see no way how this will fit the spaces now occupied by gas stations. Thinking about those big gas stations along the freeways / motorways and the size of installation needed for that size hydrogen stations just blows my mind.

        • Now there you go using all that fancy “math” to prove your point. :)nnWhat leaps out at me is that 55 kWh will take a Mirai 86 miles, or about the same distance 24 kWh will take my Leaf. nnAnd I am also highly suspicious of the 86 mile number, since the Hyundai Tuscon is rated at 47 miles per kg.

          • Ad van der Meer

            You are completely right to be suspisious. The JC08 is notoriously optimistic in predicting the range of electric cars.

      • What will stop hydrogen cars is basic physics and economics 101.

      • AR

        So true and sad at the same time. Instead of looking objectively at the progress of the various transportation technology options and the potential benefits, whether EV in the short term and short range or FCEVs in the longer term and longer range, both are contributing toward a more sustainable carbon-free future and fall under different transportation needs. Furthermore, no new technology evolves without challenges, including combustion engines over 100 years ago. I would like to read non bias reporting but perhaps, that’s to much wishing these days.

    • Michael Thwaite

      Ben, you should open up your Discuss profile rather than marking it private, I’d be interested to read your thoughts on the other forums that you contribute to.

      • Guest

        Sorry; too many Muskrats that would do nothing but bombard me on everything I write. I was once public; it was astonishing how fanatic you people can get.

        • Michael Thwaite

          I see. Well, we’re an open community here. Perhaps we’re just not the forum for you.

  • These are government sponsored stations.nnThe fact is pre-orders for Mirai are off the charts.nnAt some point companies like Shell, private industry, will build stations and pumps either right next to, or in place of gasoline ones.nnThe distribution system (Praxair, Air Liquide) are already in place…stations are just the last mile…and can be implemented in as little as 48 hours!nnSo what you are implying is some kind of foot dragging is really an acknowledgement of the commercial success….of Hydrogen!

    • Joe Viocoe

      “The fact is pre-orders for Mirai are off the charts.”nnnI didn’t know charts only go up to 3,000

  • drivin98

    Wow! Did this story get posted to some sort of hydrogen-believers forum, or something?nnHydrogen reminds me of diesel. Seems like a good idea until you actually see the reality of it. The truth is that a hydrogen car is powered by natural gas. It’s only as green as a hybrid you can buy today, but at many times the price and without the ubiquitous infrastructure. Sure, it could be cleaner if the hydrogen was sourced from renewable energy, but then it’s so much more inefficient than straight battery power, it’s like a cruel joke.nnPersonally (and sadly), I think the hydrogen deals in Japan have a lot more to do with politics than intelligent transportation policy. How is hydrogen even produced there? From natural gas that has to be shipped in from foreign sources?nnIt all just seems like a sad waste of money and time that could be better spent getting closer to a true zero-carbon future.

    • Steam reforming of methane is very efficient, and its centralized. So the carbon can be captured at manufacture.nnFCEV car itself, driving in populated suburbs, emits only water vapor. nnHow that model equals a diesel spewing carbon monoxide, noxious vapors and thick fumes is beyond me.nnThe reason the Japanese Government might be slowing their mandated completion of stations is that the orders for the Mirai are off the charts. It’s now very likely private industry will be picking up the ball and adding Hydrogen to standard service stations (this has already happened at few gasoline stations in Japan).

      • Ad van der Meer

        Congratulations, you have captured 5,46 kg CO2 for every kg of H you’ve produced. Now what are you going to do with that?

      • It seems that the main buyer of the cars is the Japanese government. So, they are buying the cars AND subsidizing the construction of fueling stations? Doesn’t sound like an economically viable business model to me.

  • Martin

    Hydrogen production then generating electricity on board a vehical is basically half the efficiency of using the same electricity to charge a battery and then use that to drive a vehical so on one level it looks a poor idea. However you can make hydrogen in August in say Spain to use up energy which would otherwise go to waste. Store it transport it and use it in Germany during a calm spell in February the next year this would alow you to reduce the load on the grid and avoid having to run so many fossil fuel power stations. This then makes sense. It does however need an overall strategy across different regions to do this. Japan may well get its hydrogen from PV plants in stable countries like Australia. But untill the infrastructure to distribute hydrogen is in place and customers there to use it it won’t happen. I think Japan is foreward looking in its support of hydrogen fuel cell vehicals. It will always need to import energy and in a low carbon world hydrogen is a good bet in spite of its ineficency. Once they have hit say 50,000 cars then it would start to make sense to build a hydrogen import system in Japan and and export system in Australia. Any less and the scale would be too small to justify. I might be out by a factor of two or three but it’s going to need some thing in that order. Prior to that the efficiency is not relevent against a total vehical fleet of tens of millions.

  • Ummm, so how many hydrogen stations actually got BUILT? Also, they are relaxing regulation to make it easier to build the stations? Would that be like relaxing regulations that protect nuclear power plants from being swamped by tsunamis?

  • Bent LEAF

    Main points for hydrogen that always seem to be brought up are that it is clean, and that you can fill quickly. But reality is that driving needs, of most people, only very rarely require a trip longer than a LEAF battery can support. So long as you have an outlet available, the time to fill is actually in favor of the LEAF because pushing in a plug when you arrive is much less time than pulling off the road, around in to a gas station, checking for thugs, running your credit card, hoping noone is stealing your identity, and then filling the tank, getting the receipt, getting back in the car, hoping it starts, getting back on to the road that actually takes you to your destination.nnnnI suppose a LEAF touts it’s zero emissions badge, and hydrogen could do the same. But both fuels have to own their part of what is upstream of them. Much as with oil, the process of making the product consumes large amounts of energy, often in the form of electricity. With the energy that goes in to refining a gallon of gas, I can lose 60% in a power plant, lose another 15% in line losses, and still drive my LEAF 10 miles. And the grid is getting cleaner all the time. When you factor in the energy that goes in to bringing that oil across the world before it gets to the refinery, and then trucking it around to my local station, I can go even farther. And that’s before the fuel even gets in to an ICE gas tank. nnnnWith hydrogen, the process of separating it from whatever your source finds it stuck to (such as oxygen or nitrogen), consumes lots of energy, often in the form of electricity, that I could just directly put into a battery.nnnIn the big scheme of things, hydrogen is just an alternate form of electricity storage. One that has numerous hazards in handling, storage, and transportation, and the physical inefficiencies of both the production of the fuel, and of the fuel cell. Batteries have losses as well, but they are not as great as those with hydrogen nor oil.

  • Kathleen Sisco

    Hydrogen is plentiful and hydrogen leaf is progressing.

    The team’s immediate challenge is to increase the bionic leaf’s
    ability to translate solar energy to biomass by optimizing the catalyst
    and the bacteria. Their goal is 5 percent efficiency, compared to
    nature’s rate of 1 percent efficiency for photosynthesis to turn
    sunlight into biomass.

    “We’re almost at a 1 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight
    into isopropanol,” Nocera said. “There have been 2.6 billion years of
    evolution, and Pam and I working together a year and a half have already
    achieved the efficiency of photosynthesis.”

    As for cheap stations, it is not the stations, it is the land underneath.

  • Kathleen Sisco
  • Kathleen Sisco

    The team’s immediate challenge is to increase the bionic leaf’s
    ability to translate solar energy to biomass by optimizing the catalyst
    and the bacteria. Their goal is 5 percent efficiency, compared to
    nature’s rate of 1 percent efficiency for photosynthesis to turn
    sunlight into biomass.

    “We’re almost at a 1 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight
    into isopropanol,” Nocera said. “There have been 2.6 billion years of
    evolution, and Pam and I working together a year and a half have already
    achieved the efficiency of photosynthesis.”