Here's a story that certainly plays to stereotypes: a new network of hydrogen refueling stations being built in Japan are the work of, surprise, oil companies. As The Japan Times reports, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. and 12 other companies – including automakers – are working together to establish about 100 new H2 stations, mostly in major cities.

For its part, the government is ready to "provide financial assistance and is considering deregulation," The Japan Times writes, in part because it can cost up to six times as much to build a hydrogen station as it does a gas station. JX Nippon Oil installed the first of its planned 13 stations in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture, last month.

Two Japanese automakers, Honda and Toyota, have long been bigger fans of hydrogen than pure electric vehicles. Honda has been leasing the FCX Clarity (pictured) for years and Toyota is working on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for 2015. Hyundai, BMW, Daimler, Nissan and General Motors are among the automakers also publicly active in readying H2 vehicles for the near future.


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  • 46 Comments
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Oil company works to ensure that future vehicles are powered by fossil fuels.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Don't worry, Paul. I have it on good authority that the oil companies have no interest in investing in hydrogen infrastructure. People tell me this all the time on ABG...
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I swear LTAW you are trying your best to twist and misconstrue my words! "because they have no interest in moving forward with hydrogen infrastructure. " What in the world gave you the impression that I implied that??? They DO have interest in building the infrastructure... but they want GOV'T to pay for the risky part. Simple as that. NO CONSPIRACY. It is not even a scandal to think that private corporations won't want to risk their own money on a very risky venture that won't pay back for decades. **your comparison with the $3billion spent on an Oil drilling rig helps prove my point... a drilling rig is MUCH less risky overall. It will very likely make money for the company, and much sooner.** "because the oil companies want to push FCVs on us to force us to continue to use their products" Duh! How is that a conspiracy theory that corporations what to "Lock in" consumers??? You will find that exact term and way of thinking in every marketing meeting across the globe. "oil companies are working both *for* and *against* hydrogen FCV implementation." Once again... YOU are trying to build up a Straw Man argument for something I have never suggested. They are FOR hydrogen.... but they know (and we know) that "investment" money is MUCH better spent on convincing poor saps like you (and the Japanese Gov't) to pay for the bulk of the infrastructure rather than use their own money for such a risky, long term, possible payback.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          JakeY, do you think the oil companies will ignore the potential profits available if they were to sell hydrogen?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          "So far in the US, no oil company has demonstrated interest." That's probably because at this time there's no regulatory framework that proscribes how a hydrogen refueling station should be built (codes and safety standards), or any legal method for selling hydrogen gas as a motor vehicle fuel (taxation and weights/measures certifications). The big hold up for building hydrogen infrastructure is the US Federal and State governments. Not that I'm complaining, it just takes time to make sure all the proper oversights are put into place before an entirely new market is opened. That's a major aspect of this Japanese initiative: the Japanese are changing the standards for hydrogen storage in a publicly-accessible location. The current codes generally reflect industrial usage, and need to be changed to reflect different hydrogen handling scenarios.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          "The big thing is the regulatory framework right now prohibits companies from charging the customer for electricity without being treated as a utility, but that does not stop the growth of charging stations (we just work around it for now by charging for parking or a convenience/service fee)." Regulatory issues are a major issue. At least EVSE standards exist. As you point out, the only problem is the lack of regulation allowing the selling of electricity by second-party vendors, which is likewise pretty easy to get around (rent the space). Simply put, commercial public hydrogen station #1 *can't open* until the government says so. And at this point, because there's no codes or standards to specify *how* a hydrogen station should be built, there's no reason to invest in building one due to the likelihood of having to rebuild to suit finalized codes. The prototype stations that have been built have all had special dispensation from the government as participants in experimental demonstrations. The information learned in those demonstrations is being parsed, and over the next few years a standardized system of codes and building requirements will be generated. This is how it should be - the hydrogen providers are working with the government to ensure the safety and reliability of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure. If you doubt this is true - simply go to your local government office, and ask to see the section of the building code for a hydrogen station. It does not exist. Whereas the code for installing EVSE does. http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/progress12/viii_0_ruiz_2012.pdf http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/progress12/viii_6_rivkin_2012.pdf
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Yes, and that has long been my position. And to clarify further... I would not mind so much if Gov't were to LOAN the entire amount for infrastructure building.... but with strict payback rules. If demand for H2 does not pan out, and H2 stations must be sold at auction prices and everything fails.... the Oil companies must STILL paypack. But that is NOT what is happening. Tesla took LOANS, not handouts that socialized the risks. Oil companies want money they don't have to pay back if (when) this thing goes south. Furthermore, grants and tax credits for EV sales are only applied once the "end-product" actually gets put into consumer hands. Very different from infrastructure subsidies. The whole point of government involvement should be to reduce emissions and oil imports and consumption. Spending on infrastructure does NOT displace a single barrel of oil, nor does it reduce a single pound of CO2. So it is possible to spend billions (or trillions) of public money over the next decade... and have very few people actually use the infrastructure.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I think JakeY has it right! And I (and others here) were misquoted/misunderstood by LTAW The Oil companies are just fine (and eager) to "Invest".... if low risk. The big mantra of today's corporatism is "Socialize the Risk, Privatize the Rewards". The chicken/egg problem means that the risks are VERY high that most of the investments into Hydrogen infrastructure (save for strict R&D) will be lost or at least recouped very far into the future. To properly start making ROI on H2 stations, several hundreds of thousands of FCVs would need to be on the road. And with high initial costs, and heavy competition from PHEVs... that is not likely to happen in a timeframe that shareholders or investors will tolerate. Oil companies are very happy to spend some money on lobbying, paying for study after study that says Hydrogen is wonderful.. and building a few demo stations and FCVs. THAT IS THE INVESTMENT THEY WANT TO MAKE. While the fruits of this investment are governments being convinced to spend tax-payer money to build the bulk of the infrastructure. (Socialize the Risks) And with FCVs, they can lock in drivers to a single point of fuel well into the future, ensuring that only a handful of companies (a group monopoly) can supply the energy needed to travel.... and gradually raise the cost of H2 (regardless of the cost to produce). LEARN THE LESSONS OF THE PAST... DO NOT LOCK YOURSELF IN TO A SINGLE SOURCE. These are not "Loans" to build H2 stations.... the Oil Companies will "Privatize the Rewards".
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          That's an interesting take, CW. Pretty much everyone on ABG agrees that FCVs are technically feasible (except 2WM who is still unconvinced re: safety). But if you're right, and everybody on ABG *agrees* that the oil companies are willing to invest in infrastructure, then that's just wonderful! It was pointed out just a short while ago (please step forward and take credit, I forget who posted the link) that one company just spent $3 Billion on a new drilling rig. That's serious money! With a similar investment, that same company could build a network of 1500 hydrogen refueling stations... No doubt they'd start out smaller, which means one oil company working alone could easily build the introductory network that FCVs need. But if *multiple* oil companies, as well as other hydrogen providers like Linde and Air Products, cooperate - then building an early hydrogen refueling infrastructure shouldn't be a serious financial challenge.
          CoolWaters
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Did you mean AutoBlog? Because that's never ben stated on ABG.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          And Joeviocoe reiterates his argument that the oil companies are spending R&D dollars, and lobbying for government funding, because they have no interest in moving forward with hydrogen infrastructure. They're very clever, you know. They'll spend millions, just so people think they're doing something! When really, that's not what they plan to do at all (according to Joeviocoe). Meanwhile, anti-hydrogen conspiracy theorists continue to claim that the only reason we're even looking at hydrogen is because the oil companies want to push FCVs on us to force us to continue to use their products. It's quite amusing to see both sides argued, often simultaneously, that oil companies are working both *for* and *against* hydrogen FCV implementation. Oh, and thanks Joeviocoe, for making your argument in front of CW. I can't believe he's never seen one of your posts - you've been working that chestnut for quite a while.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          "They DO have interest in building the infrastructure... but they want GOV'T to pay for the risky part." Thanks for clarifying your position. As you point out, there is nothing at all unusual about corporations being interested in receiving government help (through subsidies, tax breaks, and tax rebates to customers) to help establish a fledgling technology. Look where Tesla is now! So to clarify, we can now agree that the oil companies *do* have an interest in building infrastructure, with government support. Thanks!
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Yes, i am the only person unconvinced that hydrogen is feasible. I am the only person that looks at the numbers, does a little elementary math, and sees hydrogen negatively. Nailed it.
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          There's some subtlety here. Oil companies are certainly willing to spend a couple million to build a couple of cost share stations for PR purposes. Shell and Chevron did exactly that (Exxon Mobil only did a partial sponsor of the CAFCP station). This is different however than building a whole network especially without any government grants (like the station in this article, assuming the report is accurate; although it seems later stations after this one will be government subsidized for half of the costs). So far in the US, no oil company has demonstrated interest.
          Dave
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          "Pretty much everyone on ABG agrees that FCVs are technically feasible (except 2WM who is still unconvinced re: safety). " Apparently, 2WM has no problem with the safety of compressed natural gas (usually 3,500 psi): "It's been kept far away on purpose.. it's been completely possible for decades, maybe even a century." - 2WM http://www.autoblog.com/2013/05/20/is-chevrolet-readying-a-cng-powered-impala/
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          "Yes, i am the only person unconvinced that hydrogen is feasible." That's not what I said. I wrote that you were unconvinced that FCVs are safe. You have agreed before that FCVs are "technically feasible", by which I mean you agree that there are actual FCVs being driven on a regular basis - that the technology *works*. From a recent post, where you expressed fears about compressed tanks: "This tells me absolutely nothing about how these cars will perform in a real world highway crash." "You've really not assured me that hydrogen cars are safe!" http://green.autoblog.com/2013/05/14/h2usa-doe-new-partnership-to-support-hydrogen-fuel-station/
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          @Letstakeawalk I doubt the regulatory issues are the main thing. We also have regulatory blocks to public charging stations. The big thing is the regulatory framework right now prohibits companies from charging the customer for electricity without being treated as a utility, but that does not stop the growth of charging stations (we just work around it for now by charging for parking or a convenience/service fee). The big thing is the hydrogen cars that were promised to be out are still not here and demand is unclear since there was never a hydrogen car for sale. There isn't the certainty needed for oil companies to seriously invest into hydrogen. And on the flip side of the coin, the automakers also say they can't possibly build the cars in any significant volume without sufficient infrastructure. What this means is both sides pushing the government to invest the bulk of the money in infrastructure, like what Joeviocoe is saying. And the comparison with Tesla is not correct. Tesla loaned money and is returning it ahead of schedule. Tesla is also building their supercharger network on their own dime (same with Nissan's investment in dealer quick chargers and level 2 charger). In contrast, ALL of government funding for hydrogen right now are grants, not loans. No matter if the idea catches on or not, that money is gone (whereas with a loan, it's only gone if the company fails and bankruptcy doesn't return enough of it). I've said before I'm not opposed to early term infrastructure grants for hydrogen, but I would be opposed if it continues after that (esp. if it's not used properly; the CA grant funding was recently frozen because there were accusations of collusion to award grants to stations built primarily by one company). I like, many here, would like to know, given the appropriate infrastructure and cars for sale, if hydrogen would actually be viable in the market (plus the actual market price of hydrogen, cars, stations etc. rather than government estimates with projected volumes). The only way to know is with the early infrastructure built (even if on government dime). Without it, all we will hear are excuses and broken promises. With it, if the companies are bluffing (not actually serious about the technology), we'll know for certain.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Just who the heck do you think builds fuel stations anyway? As a ground for criticism this is even more absurd than most of the loose and specious rationales for dismissing hydrogen. Ah, I forgot, this treads on the fantasy of all cars being run on solar, regardless of how sunny the climate it, and despite all real world plans for grids heavy in renewables having to use a lot of storage, with hydrogen in the forefront.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          @Spec: You had better tell the Germans that the don't need the massive amounts of storage they are planning, and which contributes a fair chunk of the trillion Euros they reckon switching to renewables will cost. Have you actually looked at the way the grid works? Renewables cause massive power surges, which actually endangers the grid, and much of the power when it is windy or sunny is on a use it or lose it basis without massive storage: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-german-energy-shift-headwinds.html This 'cunning plan' for massive inputs of renewables without massive storage does not exist outside of the fantasy posts on blogs like this. If you think it does, please provide full references to who is doing this, and how they are going to make it work. Sure in the US a lot of EV's could be run without building more plant. Because it is existing plant does not mean that they don't burn fuel running more of the time, and I was responding to a post claiming that hydrogen is the oil company's way of ensuring that transport continues to use fossil fuels. Well, so do EV's if you power them using existing plant, and at around the same rate of 1MJ/mile as fuel cells.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          "Why are you still claiming that building more renewable capacity leads to greater reliance on fossil fuel plants?" Because it is commonly accepted. Which is why the study I linked to is so controversial. If everyone already agreed, there wouldn't have been an article written about a game-changing theory about how to implement renewables *without* fossil fuel baseloads. "Also, if you distribute and over build renewable sources (and store if able)... there need NOT be any baseload (non intermittent) sources needed to meet a growing demand." That's not what the controversial study concludes. "Writing in the Journal of Power Sources, a peer-reviewed journal, Kempton and his colleagues reported for the first time that by 2030 the grid could be powered almost entirely using a mix of wind (both on- and off-shore), solar and grid-scale energy storage."
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          "... many in the electric power industry believe that to power entire regional electrical grids, we must continue to rely on fossil fuels for much of our baseload power. Last month, Willett Kempton, a renewable energy expert at the University of Delaware, reported a detailed analysis turning conventional wisdom on its head. Writing in the Journal of Power Sources, a peer-reviewed journal, Kempton and his colleagues reported for the first time that by 2030 the grid could be powered almost entirely using a mix of wind (both on- and off-shore), solar and grid-scale energy storage, and that this grid would be both affordable and reliable." http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2013/01/11/qa-can-renewables-alone-witih-storage-power-the-grid/ And here's a paper I'll come back and read later: "Grid Integration of large-capacity Renewable Energy Sources and use of large-capacity Electrical Energy Storage" http://www.iec.ch/whitepaper/pdf/iecWP-gridintegrationlargecapacity-LR-en.pdf
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          @DaveMart "It may work in Hawaii, but most places are not Hawaii." It works in the south western side of the US (we have plenty of sun here). There's also wind power. "Renewables cause massive power surges, which actually endangers the grid, and much of the power when it is windy or sunny is on a use it or lose it basis without massive storage:" http://phys.org/news/2013-05-german-energy-shift-headwinds.html You should dig a bit deeper. German's problem is that BY LAW they can't throttle renewable power. This problem is non-existent in areas without such a law. "Germany could solve the problem by allowing its grid operators to turn off renewable sources at times of excess production, which is not currently possible under German law." http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/17/czech-germany-grid-idUSL5N0D43LA20130417 When a wind power oversupply happens, here in the US we simply just shut down the turbines or lower the speed. For the newer ones this is all software controlled (so a whole array of turbines can be optimally adjusted). The article itself also mentions the effects from cutting out a huge amount of nuclear without a backup plan (this is the main reason for their recent problems). They don't have the spinning reserves of fossil fuel plants to replace those.
          Val
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Germany is nowhere near having hydrogen-based storage, and even if they did build it for grid stabilization, it would be just for that. You cannot stabilize the grid if you take away the hydrogen and put it in a car coz it won't be there when you need it.. Also, the infrastructure to do that will be prohibitively expensive. Germany building hydrogen storage tanks and fuel cells near windfarms does not automatically mean hydrogen economy or FCVs.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          DaveMart.... You continue to ignore the logic. Why are you still claiming that building more renewable capacity leads to greater reliance on fossil fuel plants? Why do you IGNORE the fact that electricity demand is increasing regardless of the type of plant they build to meet that demand? People are not building more generating capacity just for giggles. And if non-fossil fuel sources are not built up... then there will be MORE fossil fuel generating capacity built. Also, if you distribute and over build renewable sources (and store if able)... there need NOT be any baseload (non intermittent) sources needed to meet a growing demand.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          What the Germans have 'done' to date is rely more heavily on coal and gas, and create instability in not only their grid but halfway across Europe: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-25/windmills-overload-east-europe-s-grid-risking-blackout-energy.html Meanwhile electricity there costs $0.30kwh, they admit they have no chance whatsoever of meeting Kyoto and they remain one of the largest emitters of CO2 per capita in Europe, way, way higher than nuclear France. You may call talking flannel doing something, but I don't, any more than your response does anything other than change the subject when asked awkward questions about how this mythical renewables intensive grid which does not store massive amounts of power, for instance by producing hydrogen, will work. A fantasy is not a realistic technical blueprint, and neither is the notion of running cars on solar with batteries in many places. It may work in Hawaii, but most places are not Hawaii.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Well DaveMart . . . from everything you say, the German grid should have completely collapsed by now. Yet it is up and running just fine. You whinge, they do.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          1) You don't have to have massive amounts of storage for a grid with lots of renewables. Renewable diversity, geographic distribution, over-building, fossil fuel plants, etc. work fine for smoothing out much of the issues. 2) But forget solar. With the existing grid as is, we could switch over some 70+% of the cars to EVs without building a single new power plant as long as you charge up at night. There is massive over-capacity available at night.
      goodoldgorr
      • 1 Year Ago
      I never saw any customer said that he is interested to buy so why they want to release that.
      Electron
      • 1 Year Ago
      I can certainly see how a future of profitable natural gas derived hydrogen sales is preferable to one of solar powered homecharging and free to use Supercharger networks for the oil companies. Bit cheap though to expect the Japanese taxpayer to pick up at least part of the tab for this insanely expensive infrastructure.
      JakeY
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hopefully, it ends better than the 200 stations that promised back in 2003 to be built in California. Their stations (equivalent to $5-6 million USD per pop) are also quite expensive compared to ones here.
        Chris M
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JakeY
        That's an apt comparison, considering the similarity in size and economic clout. But just as the original "200 H2 stations for California" plan fell far short with just a few public H2 stations in the LA area, I suspect this, too will fall far short of their goals. The far lower cost for EV charging makes H2 a difficult sale.
      krona2k
      • 1 Year Ago
      Go on then, the world will watch and wait.
      Actionable Mango
      • 1 Year Ago
      Serious question. Why isn't "big electricity" putting in tons of access points for BEVs?
        JakeY
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        TEPCO is doing just that. They already have 1677 CHAdeMO stations in Japan! The quick charging network there is already quite mature and you can practically travel everywhere in Japan without worrying about not being able to find a quick charge station.
        krona2k
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Mainly because they're not really needed. It's a whole kind of situation for BEV since a vast majority of EV miles will be provided by home chargers. Quite a shame really since rapid charging would make the current generation of electric vehicles more appealing. It's great that Nissan are installing rapid chargers at their dealers but it might have been better to try to form a consortium to install PAYG rapid chargers where they are really needed, at or near existing gas/petrol stations on highways/motorways.
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        In Japan, TEPCO is. Why not in the USA? I think Joeviocoe's "Socialize the Risk, Privatize the Rewards" post here nails it. In the late 80s and 90s electric companies seemed intensely interested in EVs. Now they do little to promote adoption (e.g. they could seriously reward V2G schemes), but will happily sell plug-in owners additional electricity. There might be a big oil conspiracy angle too, but I haven't heard of it.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        It is not profitable. But I'd still think they'd do it just to help EVs get rolling. However, they are a very regulated industry and thus they might not be allowed to do that so easily.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Yeah, and TEPCO wants to collect royalties for every Chademo fast-charger. It is no wonder that the rest of the world did not want to go along with that plan.
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          I don't know if they will make the standard royalty free, but they did make it an open standard late last year (it's now a JIS standard) in order to get the standard adopted by the IEC. Given the EU decided to exclude CHAdeMO from their accepted DC charging standards, I think they might make it royalty free in order to try to get it accepted in the EU (that's a huge blow to the standard right now). The US so far they still have a decent chance since the policy is basically to support both CHAdeMO and SAE. And Nissan for sure will be a strong backer (although I think their plan of installing chargers primarily at dealers is a huge miss).
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Because there are already access points in every garage across the US, and the electric companies don't make more money if you charge at a public high speed charger than if you charge at home?
        archos
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Big electricity in Japan..? You mean Tepco, the nuclear corporation thats responsible for 4 meltdowns which are still leaking radiation into the air and water? I think they're too busying poisioning japan to care about EVs.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        "Big electricity" kinda has a bad reputation out there, at the moment... :)
      archos
      • 1 Year Ago
      I thought japan was in an energy crunch from having to shut down their nuclear plants. Hydrogen is energy intensive to make.....This better not be some kindof end run to force those death traps to start back up.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @archos
        Japan is just hedging their bets on next-gen cars. Who knows if this really goes anywhere but if H2 cars were to take off, they want to be ready to take advantage of it. Honda has sunk a lot of money into H2.
        Chris M
        • 1 Year Ago
        @archos
        The hydrogen will be produced from natural gas, not electricity. Of course, Japan imports most of it's natural gas, which makes the resulting H2 fuel rather expensive.
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