So far, the Hy-life project has been very successful and innovative - it aims to bring a change to Japan and eventually to the world. It seems slightly long-term because of its unprecedented trial in the world, but they are trying to implement the plan through sustainable procedures.

Green Innovation - Fukuoka Hydrogen Town

So Masuda | Fuel Cells 2000

Many U.S. companies are leading the fuel cell industry today, manufacturing systems used all around the world.  Other countries like Japan, Germany, Korea and the U.K. are also dedicated to the growth of fuel cell technology, all recently reaffirming their commitment with aggressive deployment targets and governmental support.  Consumers’ impressions of companies are also affected by how visibly “green” they are, which is also helping to increase visibility and sales of fuel cells.  Given the trend of today’s society, it is not hard to believe that in the future, there will be a city run by fuel cells.  Would you believe it if I told you that such a city is underway? 

The answer is, YES.  This city exists in Fukuoka, Japan, showcasing a society based on hydrogen energy by installing residential fuel cell systems, hydrogen stations and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

Why is Japan interested in fuel cells?  The Japanese government has shown high levels of dedication to green technology development since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, to minimize effects on climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gases[1], implementing the Cool Earth 50 – a long-term plan to reduce greenhouse gases such as CO2.  Fuel cell technologies play an important role in this plan, with four out of 21 chosen technologies of the Japanese government focusing on:

  • FCVs
  • Stationary fuel cells
  • Hydrogen production
  • Hydrogen storage technologies


These four areas are being supported by the Japanese government as well as many private companies and research institutions over the past 10 years, helping to make an amazing city run entirely by clean energy.  And the idea of a self-sufficient city producing its own energy is being even more aggressively pursued following the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident, and fuel cells play an integral role in Japan’s plans.

The Fukuoka Strategy Conference for Hydrogen Energy was established in 2004 to elaborate Japan as a pioneer of the hydrogen energy.  The board members were representatives from several universities, the Fukuoka local government and the biggest Japanese companies, including the president of Kyushu University, the mayors of the city of Kitakyushu and Fukuoka, the director of Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the president of Nippon Steel Corporation.  It has grown to 651 companies/institutions members as of February 2012. 

The Hy-life project was implemented by the Fukuoka Strategy Conference for Hydrogen Energy to aim at manage the entire process of hydrogen research and development (R&D), to generate, transport, stock and utilize hydrogen through development of engineers in the hydrogen energy industry and organize a leading cutting edge hydrogen technology community as a model.  Hy-life is mainly composed by two projects that started in Fukuoka, the “Hydrogen Town” and “Hydrogen Highway.”  The Hydrogen Energy Test & Research Center (HyTReC), an organization providing R&D support for hydrogen-related start-up companies, is a major contributor to the projects.  HyTReC works with HYDROGENIUS, a world class research institution located in Fukuoka, to share new scientific knowledge and technical guidelines as well as private sectors to evaluate performance/safety of newly developed products. 

Description: hydrogen town includes installing residential fuel cells, specifically the now commercially available ENE-FARM system (more than 20,000 ENE-FARM fuel cell systems have been sold to date around Japan), whose slogan is “Make “electricity” and “hot water” using hydrogen in your own home.” The project launched with fuel cell installations at Kyushu University and the official residence of the Governor of Fukuoka.  In total, about 150 fuel cells were installed in homes between 2008 and 2009 by Nippon Oil Co. and Seibu Gas Energy Co. in a few neighborhoods around the island. 

A hydrogen highway, based on two hydrogen stations supplying fuels to FCVs, was launched between Kitakyushu and Fukuoka in 2009.  In order to supply hydrogen for the residents through hydrogen stations, a 10km hydrogen pipeline, the only one of its kind in Japan, was constructed to deliver hydrogen to the Kitakyushu Station.  The other station, located at Kyushu University, produces renewable hydrogen on-site.   According to the hydrogen highway strategy, the project will demonstrate 40 stations from 2011-2015, and the Fukuoka Strategy Conference for Hydrogen Energy will start commercializing the technology to expand it to all over Japan.  In the plan, there will be approximately 1,000 stations and 50,000 FCEVs on the road by 2020 and 5,000 stations and a million FCVs on the road by 2030.  Currently Fukuoka has five FCEVs and fuel cell scooter.  The Fukuoka Strategy Conference for Hydrogen Energy recently publicized a plan to promote the spread of FCEVs in Northern Kyushu area that aims at the completion of hydrogen supplying infrastructure by 2020.  It is expected to be the first complete hydrogen highway in the world[i].

In order for the hydrogen highway project to be strengthened enough to expand, the Research Association of Hydrogen Supply/Utilization Technology (HySUT) was established in July 2009 and has 18 companies and organizations as of January 2012.  The HySUT is organized by private companies, such as JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation, with the goal is to publicize hydrogen generation companies as well as FCEVs.  Most recently, they presented their strategy to establish a hydrogen-based social system in February 2012 and defined 2015 as an initial date of targeted FCEV commercialization to the general public.  In the meantime, they plan on constructing a hydrogen supply infrastructure – 100 hydrogen fueling stations by 2015.  Furthermore, they aim at having finished most of the expansion and having an increased significant number of FCEVs by 2025, in order for them to eventually launch profitable businesses.

So, why Fukuoka?  Because the capital of the Kitakyushu industrial area, which is one of the four biggest and most active industrial areas in Japan, is the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture.  Plus, Fukuoka is one of the biggest cities in Japan, and with around 5 million people.  Fukuoka is an ideal place to commercialize fuel cell technologies as well as the hydrogen energy industry because:

  • It has access to a plenty of water resources

The industrial area spreads to Dokai Bay, Suounada coastal area and Kanmon Straits between Honshu, which is the main island of Japan, and Kyushu, which is the biggest island in southern part of Japan.  Because the Fukuoka city faces the ocean and inland sea, there is access to water resources and it rapidly developed as the center of the Kitakyushu industrial area from the early 1900’s through today.

  • It has an enormous amount of hydrogen production

This area is very competitive when it comes to hydrogen generation, producing 500 million cubic meters of hydrogen per year – equivalent to 10 percent of the total production of hydrogen for a year in Japan, which is around 5 billion cubic meters according to 2010 annual report published by Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry[ii].

  • It is home to big manufacturing companies and other institutions

The headquarters of several of the biggest Japanese manufacturing companies, such as Toray Industrial Inc. and Yasukawa Electric Corporation, are located in Fukuoka.  Also, Kyushu University in Fukuoka is conducting cutting edge research.

Fukuoka has also hosted a number of hydrogen and fuel cell events, including the Hydrogen Energy Advanced Technology Exhibition 2011, the International Hydrogen Energy Development Forum 2012 (February 2012) and the upcoming Kyushu Eco Fair 2012 (June 2012).

So far, the Hy-life project has been very successful and innovative – it aims to bring a change to Japan and eventually to the world.  It seems slightly long-term because of its unprecedented trial in the world, but they are trying to implement the plan through sustainable procedures.  Fukuoka, the place this revolutionary attempt was started, will continue to be a key developer of the fuel cell and hydrogen industries for many years to come.


[1] Kyoto Protocol – in 1997, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held a conference regarding an international agreement of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Kyoto, Japan, restricting 37 industrialized countries and European community for reducing GHG emissions.  Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement on climate change, will finish its commitment period by this year.

[i] Fukuoka Hydrogen Strategy, Hy-Life Project, Fukuoka’s Challenges towards a Hydrogen Society, presented by the Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture, Wataru Aso.

[ii] Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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