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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will support the proliferation of series-production hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by offering 2 million yen ($21,000) subsidies to get the green technology onto the public radar.

The announcement comes as domestic car-makers such as Toyota and Honda gear up to launch their next-generation zero emissions hydrogen vehicles (called the Fuel Cell Vehicle and FCEV Concept respectively) from 2015. In addition, South Korean powerhouse Hyundai already offers a fuel-cell ix35 SUV in some markets.

As we know, Honda has also teamed up with US giant General Motors to develop yet more advanced systems for 2020.

According to Japanese news agency Nikkei, the Abe government sees the spread of these green vehicles as a key growth strategy for the country. The infant technology that emits only water vapour is more expensive than battery cell electric vehicles or PHEVs.

The subsidy will pare back the price of a Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle to around 5 million yen ($52,500) when it goes on sale in Japan around August next year. Before the subsidy, the FCV will cost around 7 million yen, about double what the Nissan Leaf EV cost at launch in December 2010.


The policy fits a wider framework, with Japan also offering subsidies and tax reductions for EV and plug-in vehicles as well. Furthermore, conventional hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius C and the petrol-electric Honda Jazz dominate the sales charts on the island nation.

Nikkei also reports that Prime Minister Abe will commission more than 100 new hydrogen fuelling stations in the country. Abe spoke from the city of Kitakyushu, home of a trial hydrogen station, and drove the Toyota FCV as a publicity stunt.

Fuel cell cars convert a tank of hydrogen into useable energy that spins an electric motor and emits only water. Several countries, including Norway and Denmark, have hosted sizeable trials of the technology, though a lack of infrastructure means any significant rollout will take some years yet.