The car industry will get a push from the government in Japan. The country wants more Japanese consumers to purchase "green" vehicles.
Part of the strategy is to enable use of hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that Toyota has been developing, along with other other manufacturers in different parts of the world. Subsidies will become available for fuel cell vehicle (FCV) manufacturing in Japan.
According to reports, this would be the biggest push for using hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles yet. The government plans to invest this money into Toyota and its suppliers. Some project the technology could become a $400 million market for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
As most cars today are powered with an internal combusion engine that emits exhaust that is harmful to the environment. Japan wants to push for zero emissions. The fuel cell vehicles only produce heat and a trickle of water from the tailpipe, although some emissions may come from the plans generating the power with which they are charged.
Subsidies could total $30,000 per vehicle in at least one prefecture for the hydgrogen-powered sedans that Toyota is manufacturing. The subsidies come in the form of rebates. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 2 million Japanese yen ($19,642 USD). Additionally, the Aichi prefecture (a district under the government of a prefect in Japan, similar to a state in the U.S.) where Toyota is based might provide another million yen ($9,821) for local purchases.
Honda and Hyundai are also reportedly trying to figure out how to improve the business infrastructure behind fuel cells, with few options for refueling centers around the world and in Japan. The government plans 100 refueling centers, but a timeline has not been provided yet. With more refueling centers, more companies may be interested in the vehicles.
China is attempting similar methods to boost electric car productions. With these subsidies, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle would still reportedly be around $50,000, or a little more than 5 million yen. The vehicles, like Tesla in the United States, would likely initially only be available to more affluent customers, the types that typically drive high-end Mercedes or Lexus vehicles.
Details haven't been all hammered out yet and the outline of the plan was announced just last week, according to reports. Japan reportedly wants to build the 100 fueling stations by March 2015. They might prove useful for industry, such as taxi drivers or others with large fleets of cars.
Fuel cell technology has had a varied history in industrial terms. They have been in testing since the 1960s. NASA was previously involved with their development as well. Japan also wants to implement carbon-free production facilities by 2040.