Japanese carmakers are at the forefront of hydrogen propulsion – fuel cell vehicles (FCV) like the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity Fuel Cell are already on the market, and development is only set to be intensified as the Land of the Rising Sun is poised to become a hydrogen-fuelled society.

But for a widespread adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles, there needs to be an abundance of hydrogen filling stations. It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma, and that’s why Japan’s three biggest carmakers – Toyota, Honda and Nissan – have created a new company to accelerate the development of hydrogen stations in the country.

Japan H2 Mobility (JHyM) is a collaboration between the Big Three and a number of fuel and energy companies, including JTXG Nippon Oil & Energy, Idemitsu, Iwatani, Tokyo Gas, Toho Gas, Air Liquide Japan and Toyota Tsusho, as well as the Development Bank of Japan. It is said to be the world’s first framework for hydrogen infrastructure development that also includes investors in the process.

The new company promises to ensure that infrastructure developers, carmakers and investors do their part in supporting the strategic development of stations, promoting effective operation and facilitating a positive cycle of improved convenience for FCV users. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of FCVs on the road smoothly, thus building a sustainable hydrogen station business.

An ambitious 10-year plan is in place – the company intends to begin construction of 80 stations nationwide by the fiscal year 2021, with further expansion of the network afterwards. The roadmap released by the government’s Council for a Strategy for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells aims for around 160 hydrogen stations to be built by 2020, serving around 40,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road.

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The company will develop its own deployment plan to create an FCV-friendly environment, with national subsidies and local initiatives taken into account. It will also seek wider participation from the industry to ensure the completion of the target deployment plan, rather than relying on its initial member companies.

By collecting and utilising station construction and operation information, JHyM will also contribute towards a more efficient running of the stations it deploys and owns. This includes working with bodies such as the Association of Hydrogen Supply and Utilisation Technology (HySUT) and the Fuel Cell Commercialisation Conference of Japan (FCCJ) to reduce costs and improve user convenience.

Member companies are responsible for key aspects of the operation – infrastructure developers will contribute some capital and construct and operate hydrogen stations, while carmakers will entrust developers to operate the hydrogen stations in order to help promote the expansion of hydrogen stations and vehicles.

Meanwhile, investors will provide financial contribution to scale-up the development of stations in the future, and partially cover station deployment costs through investments in JHyM. Through funding the business until it becomes commercially sustainable, they will help reduce the initial financial burden borne by infrastructure developers, and help attract new participants in the venture.