Diffusion of Fuel Cell Vehicles in Japan, renewable energy model versus fossil energy model
Midori Aoyagi1, Fred Steward2, Ritsuko Ozaki3
1National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan. 2University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom. 3University of Winchester, Winchester, United Kingdom


Japan is the one of the leading countries for diffusion of Fuel Cell vehicles, with Mirai from Toyota and Clarity from Honda. The ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) encourages related industries and sectors (e.g. vehicles, energy suppliers, gas suppliers as well as academia and local governments) to invest in relevant technologies and infrastructures to meet their goals of “the Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells”, which was first launched in June 2014 and revised in March 2016. The plan has three-step achievement plans, with the target years of mid-2020s (Phase 1), late 2020s (Phase 2), and around 2040s (Phase 3). This plan focuses not only vehicles, but also stationary fuel cells for heating and hot water supply for homes. The METI model utilizes hydrogen supply systems based on fossil fuel, such as natural gas and gases from byproducts of energy supply and industrial processes.

The Ministry of the Environment (MOE), on the other hand, promotes and subsidizes “renewable energy based” hydrogen supply system and fuel cell vehicles.


On local government level, the different departments and sections supports those METI and MOE systems. For METI system, the science and technology section or industry sections are in charge of hydrogen systems at the local level, while the environmental sections are often promotes MOE models. They both have their own networks for information exchange and policy cooperation at the local level. In particular, METI utilizes their own local branches: for example, METI-Kanto Division, who is in charge of Tokyo metropolitan area and its surrounding prefectures, encourages local medium- and small-sized manufactures to join the local network for fuel cell vehicle parts manufacturing research and development. They hold research meetings, seminars, and other activities, which are designed to accelerate hydrogen R&D in the area.


MOE focuses on hydrogen supply systems with renewable energy. For fuel cell vehicles, Honda developed a bio- or solar energy based hydrogen supply system called HSH (Honda Smart Hydrogen Station). This is compact and efficient and is less expensive compared to conventional hydrogen refuelling stations, and currently this is the only system that can supply hydrogen directly from renewable energy sources. MOE subsidized this HSH in the initial (experimental) stage.


In October 2017 Honda made an announcement that they will build 100 stations by 2020. Honda building additional 100 stations is significant, as the current target in METI’s strategic plan is to build 160 stations by 2020, and currently 78 stations are operational with 15 under construction. This Honda’s strategies are included the aforementioned revised Strategic Plan of March 2016. Honda’s HSH technology makes this target feasible.


In December 2017 Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and hydrogen suppliers and financial sectors established a new company whose aim is to build and manage hydrogen stations all over Japan. This is clearly influenced by the Paris agreement, and following announcement of China, France, Germany and other countries’ abolishing fossil fuel vehicle by 2040. This demonstrates the determination of the Japanese government to make hydrogen businesses successful.