Policy / Systems / Technology

May 9, 2006


Japan Business Federation Urges Regulatory Reforms to Promote Fuel Cells

Keywords: Environmental Technology Manufacturing industry Policy / Systems 

The Japan Business Federation (JBF, also known as the Nippon Keidanren) submitted a proposal to the Japanese government on October 15, 2002, urging regulatory reforms to boost the use of fuel cells. The JBF is a comprehensive economic organization in Japan with a membership of 1,541 major companies and organizations (as of July 16, 2002). Items in the proposal are outlined below.

Change of category for fuel cell power systems to "small-scale power systems"

With hopes of having small-capacity fuel cells penetrate into broader markets such as household uses, this change is urged to remove barriers that exist under current regulations.

Revise safe distance for fuel cell power systems

Current regulations categorize fuel cell power facilities, regardless of size, as thermal power plants, meaning that even small fuel cell power systems for household use must be at least three meters away from the nearest building. Fuel cell systems, however, would pose no fire concern even if the safe distance were set at only 0.1 meter, since the surface temperature of the household-size fuel cell cubicles currently under development by various companies do not exceed 60 degrees Celsius, meaning that the temperature of nearby walls would be well below 100 degrees Celsius. The recommendation is to set the minimum distance at 60 centimeters above and 15 centimeters from the side of the cells, the same as for gas water heaters for home use (12-70 kilowatts).

Revision of standards for hydrogen-powered vehicles

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are subject to the same regulations as for typical high-pressure gas tanks because no specific standards exist yet for them. In contrast, special standards already exist for tanks and inspection periods for natural gas vehicles. Thus, at present, tanks installed in hydrogen-powered vehicles cannot be inspected without being removed from the vehicle, and inspections cannot be coordinated with regular mandatory automobile inspections (natural gas vehicles do not have these limitations).

Standards hydrogen filling stations

With no specific standards for hydrogen filling stations under the current system, they are subject to the same regulations as for typical high-pressure gas facilities (in contrast, specific standards already exist for natural gas filling stations.) Also, with restrictions under the Building Standards Law, hydrogen stations can really only be built in industrial and exclusive industrial districts. To encourage wider use of fuel cell vehicles, the JFB urges the early establishment of standards for hydrogen stations, as well as a softening of regulations on usage under the Building Standards Law (on rules for storage of high-pressure hydrogen), at least to the same levels as for natural gas stations.

Road regulations

The current Road Traffic Act imposes driving restrictions on vehicles loaded with hazardous materials at under-water tunnels for the safety of the structure and traffic (maximum 600 kilograms for liquid hydrogen and 60 cubic meters for hydrogen gas). These restrictions are posing problems for transporting fuel through tunnels and for the movement of car carriers transporting fuel-cell vehicles carrying high-pressure gas. The JFB therefore urges the easing of road restrictions to the extent possible without compromising safety, and changes to regulations so that in principle fuel cell-powered vehicles can travel on all roads.

Posted: 2006/05/09 02:18:38 PM
Japanese version