The push for fuel-cell infrastructure in Japan has been taken up by a group of 13 major automakers and fuel suppliers. This coalition announced this month that members will fund at least 100 hydrogen refueling stations in four major markets by 2015. Members also plan a lobbying effort to officials at the prefecture level to create a groundswell for fuel-cell infrastructure. These efforts are intended to create demand for fuel-cell vehicles and force government officials to develop an appropriate refueling system.
Reviewing the list of coalition members is akin to looking at the major players in Japan’s automotive and energy industries. Representatives from Toyota, Nissan and Honda will represent the auto industry’s interests within the coalition. These automakers are interested in creating enough refueling stations in major cities to anticipate future fuel-cell vehicle releases. Utilities including Saibu Gas, Toho Gas and Iwatani Corporation will provide the hardware for refueling fuel-cell vehicles. The cooperation of ten utilities in central and southern Japan is critical to the success of this coalition.
Coalition members are focused on Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka for the initial round of hydrogen fueling stations. These four cities represent the top cities in Japan based on population with a total population of 22.8 million consumers. This focus on high-density cities would allow significant numbers of drivers and operators to access refueling stations within confined spaces. Another reason for selecting these four metro areas is the desire for geographical diversity. The fuel-cell coalition could create demand for refueling stations and vehicles from Tokyo in central Japan to Fukuoka in the south.
This concerted push for fuel-cell stations in Japan coincides with existing efforts to add alternatives for gas-guzzling vehicles. Honda has been working on demonstration projects for plug-in electric vehicles including a 2011 trial in the Saitama Prefecture. Toyota is working with the national government to provide fuel-cell buses for routes near Tokyo. Nissan’s work on the LEAF EV in the United States and the Fuga Hybrid in Japan proves the company’s commitment to green vehicles. Participating utilities and energy companies could ensure ongoing relationships with these automotive giants by investing in refueling infrastructure. The local focus of this coalition provides a portable model for municipalities and regional governments around the world interested in hydrogen power.