Regional Trends in Electromobility: Regional Study of Japan

Policy Report

Transportation sector and automobile industry in Japan have been playing important roles to help address national energy constrains and global change issues such as climate change and promote technology development and enhance international competitiveness.
Japan’s involvement in the market of the next-generation vehicles, in particular electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles, started in 2009. According to the Clean Energy Vehicles Guidebook 2012 (MOEJ, METI and MLIT, 2012), there are 26 types of electric vehicle, 1 type of plug-in electric vehicle and 37 types of hybrid vehicles in the market, including passenger vehicles, trucks, buses and motorcycles. In 2012, there were about 32,229 electric vehicles in use, including passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, mini-sized vehicles and motor cycles, and 4,132 plug-in hybrid vehicles in use.
Four ministries are playing the major roles in policy making related to the promotion of elec-tromobility in Japan. They are the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT), the Ministry of the Environment (MOEJ), and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
In April 2010, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry formulated the Next Generation Vehicle Strategy 2010. As a key policy document related to the promotion of electromobility in Japan, the strategy includes six sub-strategies, i.e. the Overall Strategy, Battery Strategy, Resource Strategy, Infrastructure Strategy, System Strategy and International Standardization Strategy. The official target is to have electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles account for more than 15% of new vehicle sales by 2020 and more than 20% of new vehicle sales by 2030. This will contribute to about 5% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2020 and 11% reductions by 2050 compared with 2008 levels.
There are three major challenges for the dissemination of electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles in Japan, i.e. i) higher price compared with gasoline-fuelled automobiles; ii) limited cruising range; and iii) lacking of charging infrastructure. To address these challenges and to achieve the dissemination target set in the Next Generation Vehicle Strategy 2010, the Japanese government, together with local governments, business sectors and universities and research institutions, has made many efforts in promoting R&D (in particular on batteries), experimenting business models for the dissemination and providing policy incentives to support the introduction of electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles.
Most investment in R&D has been focused on batteries to increase their capacity and reduce the costs. In FY2012 the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry allocated JPY 3.5 billion for advance scientific research on innovative storage battery and another JPY 2 billion for advance technological development for the application of lithium-ion battery. It is planned develop advanced-type of batteries by 2015 with capacity increase by 1.5 times and cost reduction by 1/7 of current levels. By 2030, revolutionary batteries will be developed to increase the capacity by 7 times and reduce the costs by 1/40 of current levels.
The Japanese government has worked closely with local governments on exploring the business models and collecting best practices in the dissemination of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The EV/PHEV Town Concept was started in 2009 as a demonstration project for the business model experiment towards full-fledged dissemination of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Currently 18 prefectures have been selected for the experiment and various initiatives have been implemented, including the introduction of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles as official cars, for rental cars, taxis and buses. Local governments are also working actively to raise public awareness by organising exhibitions and test-ride events and information dissemination through websites, etc.
To help create the initial demand for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles, both central government and local governments have implemented many incentive policies including tax exemption or reduction on the automobile acquisition tax and vehicle tax and subsidy system for the introduction of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles and corresponding charge facilities by corporations.
For the development of charge infrastructure, use of nighttime electricity at home will form the basis for the charge of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Local governments are working with property owners to build private charging environments. Given the operational capacity of current EVs, local governments are also developing public charging infrastructure outside of home to dispel worries about loss of charge. In 2010, there was about 174 facilities with an average of 65 chargers per facility. It is planned to have 5,318 facilities with an average of 393 chargers per facility by 2020 and 13,602 facilities with an average of 645 chargers per facilities by 2050.
The public awareness on the advantages of using electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles have been increasing in recent years. However there is still a long journey to transform the awareness into real purchasing decisions.

Date: