Auto power play: Japan's hydrogen car vs China's battery drive

Wed Oct 28, 2015 2:39am EDT
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Paul Lienert

TOKYO/DETROIT (Reuters) - Asia's two autos powerhouses, Japan and China, are jostling for supremacy in how future electric cars should generate their power – from batteries or hydrogen-powered fuel-cells.

In a potentially high-stakes clash reminiscent of Sony versus Panasonic in the Beta-VHS video war in the 1980s, the winner could enjoy years of domination if their technology is adopted as a global standard by other manufacturers.

This time, though, there should be a place in the autos market for both electric battery and hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The key question is which will power more mainstream cars – the market dominated today by the likes of Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote).

"We're reaching a crossroads," says James Chao, Shanghai-based Asia-Pacific managing director for industry consultant IHS Automotive. "It's difficult to exaggerate the significance of the choice between batteries and hydrogen.

"Billions of dollars will be invested in one or the other and may determine which companies will lead the industry through the end of this century."

RIVAL VISIONS

China, a major oil importer and blighted by air pollution, is pushing for all-electric (EV) cars, offering incentives to buyers, forcing global automakers to share their technology, and opening its market to tech firms and others to produce electric vehicles.   Continued...

 
Koei Saga, Toyota's senior managing officer in charge of vehicle powertrain technology, talks during an interview in Tokyo October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter