Japan is expected to have nearly 80 hydrogen fuel cell buses by the end of March, The Gas Review reports.

According to investigations by the Japanese publication, there are 33 fuel cell buses in service as of the end of the last fiscal year, and a further 45 will be placed into service this fiscal year.

In Japan, the Ministry of the Environment is subsidising the introduction of fuel cell buses. The subsidy covers half of the cost of the vehicle for the first introduction and a third of the cost for companies that have previously introduced fuel cell buses.

However, even with the subsidy, purchasing a fuel cell bus still places a large burden on a company, so from this fiscal year, a system for renting fuel cell buses from lease companies is being adopted.

The lease companies use the subsidy to purchase fuel cell buses from Toyota. The operators of local buses then rent the fuel cell buses.

There are actually only two lease companies – MOBILTOS and Toyota Finance – who are adopted as subsidised companies of the fuel cell bus subsidy project.

According to the application, results of calls for proposal on the website of the Environmental Technology Association, who is implementing this project, MOBILOTS was selected as a subsidised company for 10 applications (implemented in Tokyo Metropolis and Fukushima and Saitama Prefectures), and Toyota Finance was accepted likewise for two (implemented in Kanagawa and Aichi Prefectures).

Incidentally, Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, is placing three fuel cell buses into service this year and is renting them from Toyota Finance.

The lease for one fuel cell bus is YEN 800,000 ($7,282) per month on a six-year lease.

Two fuel cell buses are being used for commercial operation in the city-run Toyota Oiden Bus service and another one is being used for events and other public applications.

It also looks like many private companies will place fuel cell buses into operation for the first time this fiscal year.

According to independent investigations by The Gas Review, six companies will use fuel cell buses for the first time for scheduled route operation.

Although previously only one private company used a fuel cell bus, it is likely that this will suddenly increase to seven companies.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has set a target of 100 fuel cell buses in operation by fiscal 2020, which looks like it will be met.

The Bureau of Transportation of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced the introduction of 70 fuel cell buses by fiscal 2020.

They will have 62 in operation by the end of this fiscal year, which makes It highly likely this pledge will also be achieved.