Fuel-cell cars doomed to struggle outside of Japan, says Volkswagen


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Volkswagen AG recently made a statement that the cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells are most likely to struggle to catch beyond Japan’s borders. German carmaker Volkswagen is in constant struggle with Toyota Motor Corp. to grab the number one position in the global auto industry.

Volkswagen Group President of Japan Shigeru Shoji stated in an interview last week that the subsidy of over three million yen ($28,500) per vehicle that the government of Japan is offering is perhaps too high for other countries to match. Shoji further said that refueling will be impractical even in Toyota’s home country because not only handling hydrogen challenging but building infrastructure will be costly too.

According to Shoji, “It may fly within Japan, but not globally.” Shoji and Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Motors Inc. are among the skeptics who doubt about fuel cells. In fact, the comments that Shoji made clearly display the growing divide that has hit the auto industry pertaining to the best technology that will prevail and replace the traditional gasoline and diesel cars.

Earlier, the Japanese government has offered to financially support the fuel-cell vehicles, thereby making way for vehicles that could benefit like the hybrid cars. And Toyota’s Prius is one such vehicle that is sure gain out of it.

Dion Corbett, a Toyota spokesman based in Tokyo said that fuel-cell cars are expected to offer one of the best solutions in Japan to reduce carbon emissions as they only emit water vapor. He further stated via an email, “Fuel-cell system costs are still relatively expensive, so we need subsidy support from the Japanese government. Corbett said, “It’s difficult to imagine that FCVs will become widely used in the next couple of years alone.”

Earlier, Toyota said in June that the company expects countries like Japan and Germany as well as U.S. East Coast and California to generate maximum demand for fuel-cell vehicles.

Last year Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said that the German company would sell 14 hybrid and electric models by 2014. He said without specifying a timeframe that the company may offer over 40 models depending on demand.

On the other hand, the line up of hybrids that Toyota boosts dominates the market for gasoline-electric cars. In fact, more than four million Priuses were sold since 1997 when the model was introduced.

Moreover, Japan has also offered financial assistance to the buyers of hybrid cars, thereby further helping the spur of early demand for such models. Japan plans to support hydrogen cars further.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan plans to have 100 hydrogen fueling stations in Japan by 2015 or so. The organization also plans to make hydrogen the comparable price of gasoline.

In terms of the US Government’s estimates predicting that hydrogen fuel will be at first more expensive than conventional gasoline in the US, Toyota said that the costs will be bit high initially but will fall eventually.

Toyota’s fuel-cell cars will be sold next year in California.

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