Japan’s major gas companies and automotive manufacturers have joined forces in a substantial push towards the realisation of the country’s hydrogen (H2) economy.

In total, 11 key businesses have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a collaboration towards the large-scale construction of H2 stations for fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

The alliance aims to accelerate plans to bring 160 operational H2 stations and 40,000 FCVs into use by 2020.

Industrial gas companies involved include Air Liquide Japan Ltd, Iwatani Corporation, Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. and Toho Gas Co., Ltd.

Key carmakers Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. have also united under the cooperation, along with financial institutions and other infrastructure companies.

A media release stated that the alliance stems from “recognising the challenges facing the H2 station business in early-stage commercialisation of FCVs.”

Under the fuel cell collaboration, the parties intend to steady the popularisation of FCVs and maximise their demand via the strategic development of H2 stations.

It is understood that the 11 companies are considering establishing a brand-new, dedicated company within the year to support the construction and operation of H2 stations and promote the use of FCVs.

The agreement originates from the Japanese government’s ‘Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells’ scheme. The North Pacific rim country continued to lead the H2 highway build-out last year, bringing a total of 45 new stations to the sector in 2016.