Hans Greimel:

Here, citizens are being asked to subsidize incentives up to about $30,000 per hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The immediate beneficiary will be Toyota Motor Corp. The Japan Inc. flag bearer unveiled its $69,000 fuel cell vehicle in June, after dangling hints that the vehicle would need incentives of about $20,000 to make it a realistic option for individual buyers.
 In a matter of weeks, Japan’s national government answered the call with — you guessed it — plans for consumer rebates of about $20,000 for the futuristic zero-emission cars.
 Meanwhile, Aichi prefecture — home to Toyota City and its namesake employer, the world’s biggest automaker — plans to chip in about $10,000 more for local buyers.
 The combined incentives amount to more than 40 percent of Toyota’s proposed sticker, slashing the roughly ¥7 million price tag ($68,556) to ¥4 million ($39,175).
 Yet even that deep discount may be a stretch for customers who have to contend with an almost nonexistent refueling infrastructure once they buy into Toyota’s experiment. The government aims to have just 100 stations up and running by next March.
 Indeed, Toyota’s fuel cell car, dubbed the FCV, seems designed primarily to satisfy California’s zero-emission mandates. And the pressure exerted by one of Japan’s biggest employers to wheedle unprecedented sums of government largesse foreshadows a showdown over how incentives will be handled when the car hits the U.S. market next summer.