How Toyota is helping Japan with its multibillion-dollar push to create a hydrogen-fueled society

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The country will likely fail to meet its goals, but it isn’t putting the brakes on hydrogen. If anything, it’s ramping up thanks to the private sector.

  • In March 2018 a group of 11 Japanese companies, including Toyota, Nissan and Honda, launched a venture called Japan H2 Mobility (JHyM) to build 80 hydrogen fueling stations by 2022. The company says it has nearly completed 12 stations.
  • The following month, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and other companies announced a project to extract hydrogen from brown coal in Australia and liquefy and ship it to Japan in massive quantities in a bid to lower costs.
  • Another group, including oil and gas company Chiyoda, is planning to kick-start what it calls the first-ever international hydrogen supply route by importing up to 210 tons of hydrogen, enough to fill 40,000 FCVs, from Brunei in a demonstration next year.
  • Last year Tokyu Hotels opened what it describes as the world’s first hotel powered in part by hydrogen derived from waste plastic. Nicknamed The Warehouse, Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu REI Hotel has a fuel cell generating CO2-free electricity and hot water used in guest rooms, according to Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions, which has provided similar cells to swimming pools and convenience stores.

Japan is also trying to increase domestic hydrogen production. It stood at an estimated 200 tons in April 2018, and by improving production technology and establishing regular hydrogen imports, the government wants to increase it to 4,000 tons in 2020 and 300,000 tons in 2030, according to METI’s Hydrogen Basic Strategy.

Some projects are under way to boost output. For example, a consortium including Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a state-backed R&D center, began construction of a facility in Fukushima last year that will produce up to 900 tons of hydrogen annually using wind and solar energy sources as well as grid electrical power. The hydrogen will be used to power FCVs and factories in northern Japan and elsewhere. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said it will also be used to run the athletes’ village during the 2020 Games. In 2018, NEDO said a project it launched with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and construction firm Obayashi achieved the world’s first supply of heat and electricity in an urban area using hydrogen alone as fuel. The goal is long-term development of a new energy supply method for communities.

“Energy transition will take a long time, and even in 2030 only 800,000 FCVs will be installed,” said Eiji Ohira, a director at NEDO. “We are working on hydrogen with a view toward 2050. There are many challenges such as cost reduction, improving technology for hydrogen production, storage, transport and utilization. Japan will take a leadership in this field based on our experience in promoting hydrogen. Also, we are going to collaborate with other countries to realize a hydrogen-based society.”

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