What can we learn from Japan about EV adoption?

 In EV Industry

The motherland of Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius is speeding ahead of the most of the countries when it comes e-mobility. What can we learn from Japan about EV adoption? Being one of the largest plug-in car populations in the world,  the country has certainly a few lessons to teach. Dive in to learn what they are.

Adopt early

Plug-in cars are nothing new to Japan. As a densely populated, highly industrialized country, Japan has always been bottlenecked with natural resources. 

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in the face of gasoline constraints, Japan became one of the early EV adopters.

The first Japan-manufactured electric car Nissan Tama hit the road in 1947.  Being a solution to Japan’s post-war gasoline shortage, Nissan Tama achieved a decent success on the local market. Almost fifty years later Japanese pioneered the electric hybrid car market by mass-producing the legendary Toyota Prius. At 3.5 million vehicles sold, The Prius is by far the most popular low-emission car on the planet.

Nissan Leaf also calls Japan home. In as little as eight years since this world’s first mass-produced EV has been released, Nissan has sold 300,000  units of the Leaf worldwide. The Japanese market is just as excited about the Nissan Leaf as the rest of the world. In 2017, the Nissan Leaf outsold all the plug-in cars in Japan, including Mitsubishi Outlander and famous Prius Hybrid.

Overall, the fleet of plug-in vehicles in Japan is ranked as the third biggest market in the world, after China and the US. In 2016 alone, the Japanese bought approximately 20,000 electric cars. By the year 2030, that number is projected to skyrocket to 210,000 EV sales annually.

Japan is working hard to ensure that it has a future in the EV world. Despite being one of the top internal combustion engine car manufacturers in the world, Japan has announced its ambitious plans to go emission-free by the year 2050.

Only a handful of countries have committed to having an e-fleet, and Japan is among them. We can only hope that the rest of the world will join in.

What gets incentivized gets purchased

Extremely attractive government incentives is what makes plug-in vehicles very appealing to Japanese buyers.

In the mid-1990’s Japanese government introduced a revolutionary EV incentives program. The original scheme provided zero-emission car buyers with a subsidy of up to 50% of the overall cost of a vehicle.

Even though the nowadays plug-in vehicles incentives are not as generous, Japanese still can save a penny on buying a plug-in car.

According to the new grant scheme introduced in 2016, all the plug-in car buyers get a one-time subsidy when buying purchasing a vehicle.

To give you some perspective, 30-kWh Nissan Leaf owners can get approximately $3000 grant. The maximum subsidy is capped at around $7700, and it is based on a driving range of a vehicle.

On top of the green car subsidy, the Japanese government also waves different one-time taxes, including the tonnage tax.

Consumers purchasing a zero-emission EV in Japan would also enjoy a 50% reduction of the annual automobile tax.

Eliminate range anxiety

The rise in popularity of electric cars comes with the social phenomenon called range anxiety.

Generally speaking, electric cars have shorter driving ranges that their internal combustion vehicle fellows. Therefore one of the most significant concerns of plug-in vehicle owners is the lack of charging stations.

Well, Japanese EV owners are not put off by the fear of being unable to charge their cars, because the EV charging infrastructure is where Japan truly shines.

There are are currently more electric car charging points than petrol stations in Japan. As of 2016, there were approximately 40 000 EV charging stations in Japan and only about 34 000 gas stations. To give you some perspective, the US EV owners can only enjoy about 9 000 EV charging stations (and that is in comparison to almost 114 000 gas stations).

Japan is a poster child for EV Infrastructure developing. The local government aims to have the fast charging stations installed every 15 km.

To reduce carbon footprint, Japanese government predictably makes substantial investments in EV charging infrastructure. But they look for creative solutions as well.

One of the alternative charging station ideas that have been floating around is based on the concept of the sharing economy.

The business model is very similar to Airbnb or Uber: EV drivers will be able to take advantage of the charging stations, installed in private properties.

While this is still just an idea, Japan will probably take up on it. After all, it is a great way to expand the recharging networks on a budget.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Predictably enough, more and more lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles are hitting the retirement age.

Instead of keeping the old batteries at the landfills, Japanese found a couple of creative ways to reuse the technology.

To give retired EV batteries a new life, Nissan is opening a battery recycling plants. The first-generation Nissan Leaf batteries will be refurbished there and sold for about the half price of the brand new battery.

Another creative way to refabricate spent batteries is to use them for illumination. Some of the retired lithium-ion batteries will be used to light up the streets of the coastal town Namie, which was destroyed in 2011  by the earthquake.

Toyota, on the other hand, will reuse its retired batteries for the freezers and ovens in Japanese 7-Eleven stores.

Finding ways to reuse retired EV batteries is becoming more crucial, and Japan is leading the way there.

Japan still has a long way to go to achieve its EV mobility goals. Yet some successful practices like  EV infrastructure development and retired batteries reusing, can certainly be used to guide EV adoption arounf the world.



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