Tokyo, Japan. The Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL pre-series model glides almost silently across one of the world’s busiest road junctions. It is late in the evening, but the countless illuminated billboards make it feel almost like day. Since it was first presented at the IAA in Frankfurt last autumn, the F-CELL has been undergoing public tests. Today, the fuel-cell car is turning heads in Shibuya, one of the liveliest of Tokyo’s 23 districts. Here, the streets are lined with restaurants, bars, shopping malls and elegant boutiques, and filled with thousands of people. Shibuya is loud, colourful, raucous, and obsessed with the futuristic. Japan’s largest metropolis is considered the hydrogen capital of the world.
Nowhere else is so much energy derived from fuel cells, nowhere else has such a wide network of hydrogen fuel stations. By 2020, Japan aims to have invested more than 330 million euros in infrastructure and subsidies for hydrogen-powered vehicles, as part of its long-term strategy to establish hydrogen as a key energy carrier. There is even talk of shifting much of the country’s electricity production to fuel-cell technology. Japan already has more than 200,000 micro fuel-cell systems. These produce electricity for cars, buses, trucks, refrigerators and street lamps, as well as heat for homes and industrial facilities. It also has 85 hydrogen refuelling stations, which, while it may not sound like a lot, is the highest number of any country in the world. Japan therefore leads the field when it comes to this very promising, yet still highly complex technology.