Toyota-led group aims to double Japan's hydrogen fuel stations

A consortium of 11 Japanese companies led by Toyota Motor and JXTG Holdings will jointly construct some 80 hydrogen fueling stations nationwide by March 2022, bringing down construction costs by concentrating investment

In addition to Toyota and JTXG, Nissan Motor, Honda Motor, Tokyo Gas, oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan, industrial gas maker Iwatani, trading house Toyota Tsusho, the Development Bank of Japan and others will invest in a joint company to be established in the spring. The consortium expects the venture to last 10 years.

The companies will draw up a construction plan in fiscal 2018 to nearly double Japan's hydrogen stations in four years from 90 currently, focusing on major cities.

Hydrogen stations are plagued by high construction costs at around 400 million yen to 500 million yen ($3.5 million to $4.4 million) each. Costs can be reduced by having the joint venture place orders for the necessary equipment rather than have each company act separately.

The new enterprise will also muster the participants' lobbying power to push for looser regulations. JXTG and Iwatani, which both already run hydrogen power operations, will manage the new stations.

Toyota launched the Mirai, the world's first mass-market fuel cell vehicle, at the end of 2014. Fuel cell vehicles have a greater range than their electric counterparts and can refuel in about three minutes

But there are only about 1,700 fuel cell vehicles on Japan's roads due to a lack of fueling stations. Toyota, Honda and General Motors are among the few automakers trying to develop this technology.

The Toyota group is also aiming to popularize hydrogen through industrial uses, which are simpler to refuel. Toyota unveiled a fuel cell bus that will go on sale in 2018 at this year's Tokyo Motor Show. Machine maker Toyota Industries is expanding sales of its hydrogen-powered forklift.

Japan aims to have next generation fuel-cell and electric vehicles account for 50% to 70% of new car sales by 2030. The fueling stations will be constructed through public-private cooperation.

While China, France and the U.K. forge ahead with electric, Japan is planning for an environment where both types thrive.