Toyota and Honda have both announced plans to introduce hydrogen fuel-cell powered electric vehicles (FCVs).
The government wants them introduced by next year. Toyota has said it will do so with the current year. For more details, Toyota is scheduled to provide to update its plans at 2PM Wednesday this week.
In the meantime, the government is moving to get the regulatory environment in shape.
1. Current regulations would prevent fuel cell electric vehicles from supplying electricity to the home. METI has proposed a modification to permit such power supply.
2. Nikkei reported last week that the government (METI) is planning to support sales of the vehicles with subsidies of between 2 and 3 million per vehicle. Without subsidies the cost would be as much as 10 million yen per vehicle.
According to Nikkei, the government hopes to bring the cost of fuel cell powered cars down to that of gas-electric hybrids over the next ... 20 years.
20 years? It would not be surprising if the private sector auto industry has a faster long-term goal, just as it has a faster short-term goal.
UPDATE: Toyota held its press announcement on June 25. Yes, the model will come out this fiscal year. The price? Expected to be around $70,000 (or JPY 7 million) per vehicle. Toyota is trying to persuade the government to offer a $20,000 (JPY 2 million) subsidy to bring the net consumer price down to JPY 5 million. That would be at least 40% less than the net JPY 7-8 million Nikkei was reporting.
That seems low enough to drive real consumer interest, to present a real challenge to the others planning models in coming years (Honda and Nissan). And it perhaps vindicates Toyota's decision not to put a huge degree of effort into plug-in hybrids.
While Toyota seems ahead in the FCV race, US, European and other (Hyundai) manufacturers are moving forward as well. See these articles:
FURTHER UPDATE: On July 16, 2014, Nikkei lead story is that JX (oil company; operator of Eneos and other gasoline stands) plans 100 hydrogen fueling stations by 2018. The locations of 41 stations have been set and others continue to be added. Each will cost between 300 and 500 million yen, but the government plans to make available subsidies of up to 280 million yen per station, easing the cost dramatically.