11/19/2014 | 1 MINUTE READ

Fuel-Cell Challenge: More Hydrogen Refueling Facilities

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Carmakers are poised to test consumer interest in fuel-cell-powered cars, beginning with the debut of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Mirai sedan next month.

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Carmakers are poised to test consumer interest in fuel-cell-powered cars, beginning with the debut of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Mirai sedan next month.

Huge government subsidies will help soften the initial high cost of the technology. But analysts say the ability to create a market for fuel-cell vehicles will depend mainly on the emergence of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

As of last March, there were only 186 functioning hydrogen refueling stations on the planet and only about 70 that are accessible to the public, according to h2stations.org, a Web portal operated by Munich-based global consulting firm TUV SUD Group.

The firm says all but 70 of the stations are field testing facilities. It lists a total of 72 stations in Europe, 67 in North America, 46 in Asia and one in South America.

But the Financial Times notes that nearly 560 new public-access stations are expected within the next 10 years. The London-based newspaper says Japan will add 100 such facilities by the end of 2015, The U.S. will open 57 on the west coast over the next few years, and Germany intends to build 385 by 2023.

The British government said last month it will fund seven new hydrogen stations in the U.K. and convert eight existing private facilities to public access.

Fuel-cell cars have about the same range as gasoline-fueled vehicles, so developers estimate a network of hydrogen stations about 230 miles apart would be required to permit easy regional travel. The FT says Denmark, which expects to have six hydrogen stations operating by the end of 2014, will be the first country to meet that criterion for nationwide coverage.