Volkswagen: Hydrogen Will Struggle Outside of Japan

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

While Toyota and the administration of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are going all in on hydrogen, Volkswagen Group Japan President Shigeru Shoji proclaims FCVs will struggle to make headway elsewhere.

According to Bloomberg, Shoji says the government subsidies meant to push Toyota’s Mirai and other FCVs into the marketplace are likely too high for other governments to match. He adds that issues surrounding refueling infrastructure and the handling of hydrogen itself will add to the roadblocks awaiting the technology outside of Japan.

Those comments — echoing sentiments by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other hydrogen skeptics — aren’t lost on either Toyota or the Abe administration. Company representative Dion Corbett says the subsidies are needed to help get hydrogen off the ground, citing the high cost of developing fuel-cell technology. That said, Dion believes demand will not only be the highest in Japan — where Abe envisions a “hydrogen society” of fuel-cells for homes and businesses as well as cars — but in Germany, California and the U.S. East Coast.

Though Volkswagen has its doubts, VW Japan representative Yasuo Maruta says the company is keeping its eye on Toyota’s efforts, planning to be no more than three years’ behind R&D work in relation to Toyota.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

More by Cameron Aubernon

Join the conversation
11 of 35 comments
  • TW5 TW5 on Sep 09, 2014

    Hydrogen will struggle outside of Japan because other nations have enough conventional supplies to avoid making changes. The underlying economic phenomenon has existed for centuries, and it motivated Japan to be the world leader in hybrid-gasoline technology, a role Honda inexplicably relinquished after the Gen 1 Insight. I wouldn't bet against Japan. They have to make hydrogen work. They don't have fossil fuels. They don't have enough arable land to grow biofuels. They don't like importing nuclear materials or nuclear technology. They don't have the necessary resources for domestic battery production, and they don't like bargaining with China for access to rare-earth metals. Necessity is the mother of invention.

    • See 2 previous
    • Brett Woods Brett Woods on Sep 11, 2014

      Could they drill into a volcano and boil water that way?

  • HerrKaLeun HerrKaLeun on Sep 09, 2014

    Hydrogen will struggle wherever the laws of Thermodynamics apply.

    • See 3 previous
    • TW5 TW5 on Sep 10, 2014

      Plants can split water molecules with sunlight.......

  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Sep 09, 2014

    Viable and competitive hydrogen vehicles are always 10 years away, and have been for the last 50 years. But if Japanese taxpayers wish to provide big hydrogen subsidies I expect it will still be 10 years away - 10 years from now.

  • Hybridkiller Hybridkiller on Sep 10, 2014

    To no one in particular: ask yourselves why the world's largest oil producer is heavily investing in transforming their electric grid to 100% renewable energy.