(Bloomberg) -- Hydrogen won’t just be fueling the Olympic flame cauldron at this year’s games in Tokyo, but also about 100 buses during the event, part of the country’s efforts to promote the fuel as a form of clean energy.
The latest filling station that will be used to service Toyota Motor Corp. fuel cell buses during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games opened Thursday near Tokyo’s fish market.
“Japan is a global leader in developing hydrogen technologies,” Toshiyuki Shirai, head of the hydrogen and fuel-cell strategies office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said at the station’s opening ceremony. “The Olympics give us the best chance to show them to people coming from across the globe.”
While critics such as Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk have dismissed hydrogen fuel cell technology as inefficient and expensive, the fuel can play a key role in the global clean energy transition with a range of storage technologies being developed to improve its economic viability, according to BloombergNEF.
A shift to focus on fueling heavier vehicles is necessary to maximize the cost efficiency of the fuel, said BNEF analyst Ali Izadi-Najafabadi.
“Japan is at risk of falling behind on fuel cell vehicles because it has focused on promoting fuel cell sedans instead of commercial vehicles and buses, where the advantages are greater,” said Izadi-Najafabadi. China already has more than the 1,200 fuel cell buses Japan aims to have on the road by 2030, he said.
Shipments of hydrogen fuel cells grew by more than 40% last year as proponents of the technology worked to establish it alongside lithium-ion batteries as a way to remove pollution from transportation, according to a report from energy consultant E4tech.
The Tokyo station, which was jointly built by Tokyo Gas Co. and Japan H2 Mobility, is the country’s 112th hydrogen filling station and its largest, able to supply 300 normal cubic meters of hydrogen per hour, according to Tokyo Gas.
(Updates with official comment in third paragraph.)
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