Today from Japan, Toyota, Honda and Nissan overcame previous lack of unanimity on the subject of fuel cell vehicles and agreed to morally support one another and financially support the country’s fledgling hydrogen industry.
The occasion was a rare joint press conference held by JAMA, the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association. With each expressing varying degrees of enthusiasm for the viability of a “hydrogen society,” the country’s three major automakers nonetheless vowed to spend as much as $40 million to offset up to one-third of hydrogen fuel stations costs.
Japan has set an optimistic target – which observers say may not be met – of 100 hydrogen stations by next year. These will be mainly clustered around megacities of Tokyo, Kobe/Osaka, Hiroshima, and along highway arteries between them.
The automaker’ contribution will add to that of the Japanese government which itself will pay around half of the cost of the refueling infrastructure.
The actual outlay for the three automakers will depend on how many cars they sell. For now, Toyota will bear the highest costs, and Nissan and Honda will help too while mainly showing moral support.
But while there were polite smiles all around before and after the agreement of mutual support, the Daily Kanban reported undertones also included a practice session for “ the high art of the subtle snub.”
In reality, all three manufacturers are wedded to the idea and have long been, but underlying feelings have Nissan postponing its FCV nuptials until the end of the decade or longer, while Honda and now Toyota are more deeply engaged.
Toyota is gung-ho for its Mirai, Honda will have a follow-up to its FCX Clarity next year, and lukewarm Nissan, has made no clear announcements despite a partnership with Ford and Daimler to jointly bring FCV technology to production.
At the meeting, Kiyotaka Ise, senior managing officer for Toyota intoned his company’s official talking point that hydrogen is ideal for bigger, longer-range vehicles, while acknowledging battery electric cars are better suited for inner cities.
Not happy to hear this, Nissan Senior Vice President Hitoshi Kawaguchi countered saying that BEVs now have Japan’s densest charging network – 5,000 public DC quick chargers, 9,000 conventional, and tens of thousands of wall outlets everywhere.
The implication: a goal of 100 FCV stations not likely to be met is nigh to pathetic at this stage.
With that, as culture dictates, the three representatives of Japan’s major automakers shook hands with a show of mutual respect and agreed to the noble undertaking.
Top photo: Bertel Schmitt