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Japan makes Prius palatable with road map to hydrogen cars

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Japan has outlined a 25-year roadmap to get hydrogen-powered cars onto its roads, hydrogen-powered machinery into its factories and fuel cells into millions of homes.

The nation's Ministry, for Economy Trade and Industry, recently outlined the plan, which has three phases.

In the first, the nation aims to commercialise a hydrogen-powered car by 2015, do the same for a bus in the following year and then build a solid oxide fuel cell system for commercial and industrial use by 2017. Also by 2015, the nation hopes to have 100 hydrogen filling stations.

In phase two, between 2020 and 2030, the nation hopes to go from 1.4m to 5.3m fuel cells chugging away as domestic power plants. During this phase Japan expects to buy foreign Hydrogen while also boosting domestic production capacity with as-yet-unspecified electrolysis technologies the plan says it will be important to discover.

Phase three, expected to kick off around 2040, should see the nation producing carbon-neutral Hydrogen, but not necessarily enough to meet all domestic needs.

Enthusiasm for fuel cells is seldom hard to find, but large-scale success stories are. Moreover Japan's economic planning think tanks have not, of late, produced winners as its colossal government debt and moribund economy attest.

Yet with governments around the world increasingly keen on less-polluting energy sources, perhaps Japan's fuel cell fancy will make a splash, if only in a Prius that attracts less ridicule. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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