The Japanese government is really paving the way for hydrogen fuel cell technology on its roads. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is changing regulations on fuel tanks to make hydrogen cars more appealing to drivers, which should help put the country ahead of others in the race to develop a viable H2 fleet.
Japan is raising the allowed pressure of hydrogen tanks from 700 atmospheres to 875, which has the effect of increasing driving range by 20 percent. This move puts the country in line with others with high-pressure fueling regulations. Japan is also in talks with the United Nations and the European Union to streamline inspection rules to make it easier to export Japan's fuel-cell vehicles.
Toyota premiered its hydrogen-powered FCV Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show last year and plans to release a production version as early as next year. Honda also plans to build its own fuel-cell cars for 2015, and it debuted its FCEV Concept at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show. Nissan is sending mixed messages on hydrogen, both questioning the availability of a refueling infrastructure and working on developing the vehicles. In Japan, a relatively small country, increasing the range of fuel-cell vehicles makes creating a usable infrastructure a bit less daunting.
Will hydrogen-fueled electric cars see the same sort of success as Toyota's Prius hybrid or battery-powered EVs? Only time will tell, but we can keep our fingers crossed that it will, and that the popularity spills over beyond Asia.