Energy Ministers Call for Rise in Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles

    25 September, 2019

    Officials from around the world have agreed to support a sharp increase in hydrogen technology.

    Japan announced Wednesday that energy ministers or delegates from 30 countries are supporting a plan to develop hydrogen energy for transportation.

    The Japanese government invited the officials to the Hydrogen Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo.

    The 30 countries reportedly agreed to calls to increase production of hydrogen-powered mobility systems, such as fuel cell vehicles, trucks, buses, trains or ships. The goal is to make 10 million such systems available worldwide over the next 10 years.

    In addition, Japan said the officials supported a goal of setting up 10,000 hydrogen refueling stations worldwide by 2030. Such stations will be necessary to lead a successful expansion of hydrogen-powered vehicles in coming years, a statement said.

    To date, Asian nations are a leader in developing hydrogen technology to power automobiles.

    China, Japan and South Korea have set goals to put millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on roads by 2030. Experts have predicted the effort will cost the countries billions of dollars.

    The use of hydrogen to power cars has not received as much attention in recent years as electric technology. Many major automakers have announced plans to increase production of electric vehicles to serve a growing market for clean running cars.

    Why hydrogen?

    Hydrogen is considered an extremely clean energy source. Water and heat are the only byproducts of producing it. Also, hydrogen can be made from many different sources, including methane, coal, water, or even waste.

    A Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle is shown ready to be fueled with CSIRO-produced hydrogen. (Source - CSIRO)
    A Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle is shown ready to be fueled with CSIRO-produced hydrogen. (Source - CSIRO)

    Some critics of hydrogen fuel cell technology argue that hydrogen-powered vehicles will always be a very small part of the automobile market. But supporters say that hydrogen is the cleanest energy source available for cars. They believe the technology will gain greater acceptance in the coming years, as more refueling equipment for hydrogen-powered vehicles is created and becomes more widely available.

    The markets

    China is by far the world's largest auto market. About 28 million vehicles are sold there each year. The country aims to have more than 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in service by 2030. About 1,500 are currently in use, most of which are buses.

    Japan, which sells more than 5 million vehicles yearly, has plans to sell at least 800,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2030.

    South Korea has an automobile market about one-third the size of Japan. It has set a target of getting 850,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2030. South Korea had sold fewer than 900 of the vehicles through the end of 2018.

    Japanese officials have said the resource-poor country sees hydrogen as a way to improve its energy security. They have also noted that driving distances and refueling times for hydrogen-powered vehicles are comparable to gasoline cars. Electric cars, on the other hand, require hours to recharge and generally provide only a few hundred kilometers of driving distance.

    Many backers in China and Japan see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as complementing electric automobiles instead of replacing them. In general, hydrogen is considered a better choice for heavier vehicles that drive longer distances, like buses.

    The main players

    So far, only a small number of automakers have made fuel cell passenger cars available to the public.

    Toyota Motor Corporation launched its Mirai vehicle at the end of 2014. The company has sold fewer than 10,000 of the cars worldwide. Hyundai Motor Company has offered the Nexo crossover since March 2018. So far, Hyundai has sold about 2,900 of the vehicles worldwide. The company had sales of around 900 for its earlier hydrogen fuel cell model, the Tucson.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Reports reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    byproduct n. something produced as a result of making something else

    complement v. add to something in a way that enhances or improves it