Toyota, Honda Plan Hydrogen Future: 6,000 FCVs in Tokyo by 2020

Jan 21, 2015 09:00 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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Japan is looking to create a "hydrogen society" starting with 6,000 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on Tokyo's roads by the 2020 Olympics.

"The Olympics are a good opportunity to showcase new technologies," said Hiroshi Takahashi of the Fujitsu Research Institute, as quoted by Automotive News. "It's also a significant chance to attract new investment and update the city's transportation system to make it fuel cell friendly."

The city is betting big on hydrogen with plans to invest 45.2 billion yen, or $385 million, into FCV subsidies and a hydrogen station infrastructure leading up to the 2020 deadline.

Toyota and Honda will supply the 6,000 vehicles needed for Tokyo's goal, while the city is planning 35 hydrogen stations to keep the vehicles fueled. Hydrogen fuel cells work by converting the gas to electricity, emitting water vapor in the process.

The Toyota Mirai, which was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, took about a decade to develop and can go 300 miles on one hydrogen fill-up. Starting at around $57,500 in the United States, the Mirai has a refueling time of five minutes or less.

The automaker has already received orders for 1,500 Mirai models in the first month, overwhelming its goal of 400 by the end of the year. Toyota may increase production for the four-door sedan due to demand, most of which came from government offices and corporate car fleets, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said last week.

The hydrogen fuel cell versus electric battery debate continues in the auto world. Japanese carmakers have been investing in hydrogen models, touting the cleanliness and efficiency of fuel cells, which allow vehicles to be rapidly refueled.

Tesla's Elon Musk--clearly someone betting big on plug-in cars as the future--has famously dismissed hydrogen as "silly."

Japan isn't laughing. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes the technology will reduce the country's dependency on nuclear power, aiming for 100,000 hydrogen passenger vehicles, 100 hydrogen buses and 80 refueling stations by 2025 under a state metropolitan plan.

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