Although it’s taken a few days to filter out to North American media, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has confirmed that the country will offer a substantial subsidy for the new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles being launched in early 2015.
“This is the car of a new era because it doesn’t emit any carbon dioxide and it’s environmentally friendly,” Abe said during a news conference. “The government needs to support this.”
According to a report from Reuters, Abe will be ready to offer at least two-million yen, or nearly $20,000, in rebates for early adopters. Toyota’s upcoming FCV sedan has already been pegged with a seven-million yen ($69,000) price tag, which is a level traditionally served by the company’s luxury brand Lexus. And while Mitsuhisa Kato, executive vice president for Toyota’s R&D arm, said the upcoming sedan would have features and finishes to help justify the high asking price, getting almost 30 percent covered by the Japanese government up front should help put his mind at ease.
And while fellow Japanese automaker Honda has yet to formally decide when it will launch its new fuel-cell vehicle in its home market, these big rebates will add another incentive for sooner rather than later.
Beyond the up-front costs, Japan will need decades to build up the hydrogen refueling infrastructure needed to support the technology over the long term.